Movies: The Peanuts Movie

Featuring Voices By: Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Mariel Sheets
Directed By: Steve Martino
Written By: Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, Cornelius Uliano from the comic strip by Charles M. Schulz
20th Century Fox, 2015
G; 93 minutes
3 stars (out of 5)


We've entered that time in our lives (or I've at least entered that time in my life) when everything old is being made new again as corporations cash in on middle-age nostalgia. The shows and toys of my childhood are up for grabs, being reconstructed for those of us eager to share the things we loved with our own children or, if we don't have children, for those of us eager to recapture our youth.

Like many my age, I have distinct memories of Charlie Brown and his gang. There were the usual things: the Hallowe'en and Thanksgiving and Christmas specials, and the eventual Saturday-morning cartoon. Sunday funnies. But there was also the fact I'd been handed down my mother's old Charlie Brown comic books, the ones that look "weird" to those of us who knew Mr. Brown in the 80s because Schulz's style had yet to evolve:

I loved those books, read them until the covers fell off. I invariably took them on long car trips, back when I could read in the car without becoming carsick. Now I wish I still had them so my kids could read the "real" Charlie Brown (I have some of the hardbound collection but won't let the kids touch those).

As a kid, I identified with Charlie Brown, not because of his failures but because he was different—not quite an outcast, yet seemingly living on the fringes. But then I also identified with Linus, who was smart and quiet, and with Lucy, who would get so fed up with everyone, and with imaginative Snoop and artistic Schroeder . . . What I mean to say is, there are bits and pieces of all of us in each Charlie Brown character. We are none of us just one.

Charlie Brown was so ingrained in my childhood that my mother often called my father her "sweet babboo" and would say, "Isn't he just the cutest thing?" Go ahead and gag. I did.

What does any of this have to do with the movie? I only want to set the stage for my bias; I tend to balk whenever anyone mines my childhood joy for fun and profit. I don't especially want Charlie Brown to be modernized. I don't want to hear him speak with a different voice than I'm used to. I don't want him to change because I don't want my memories rewritten.

At the same time, though, it was such a treat to see my two youngest children enjoy this movie. At ages six and seven they loved it. My almost-ten-year-old was suitably embarrassed on Charlie Brown's behalf, too, hiding his face in his hands whenever good ol' CB did something dumb.

There's nothing in the movie to really besmirch my fond memories, either. The whole thing is a tad flimsy, the plot hinging on the arrival of The Little Red-Haired Girl and Charlie Brown's attempts to impress her. Many throwbacks for those of us old enough to "get it." Snoopy, of course, battles the Red Baron, though this time there is a French poodle love interest and no root beer. Sigh. I guess there was no chance it would be perfect.

It was a fine movie. Any lack of enthusiasm on my part almost certainly stems from my resistance to seeing old favorites turned over for new gain. Bottom line, though, is my kids loved it and they'll probably be wearing Joe Cool sweatshirts before long—just like I did.

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