Long before anyone ever talked of “spirit animals,” Charlie Brown from the “Peanuts” comic strip got me. He serves as a walking disproof of the maxim of the great philosopher Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might get what you need.” For someone like me, who seems to have never left their teenage clumsy phase in many ways, his resilience in the face of consistent belly-flops in the arena of life has always been somewhat inspiring.
Though the Peanuts gang has never left the funnies page of the newspaper and still remains present in popular culture, “The Peanuts Movie” ensures that they will not fade to relic status anytime soon. I had strong reservations when Fox announced that the BlueSky animation team would adapt the comics into CGI, yet the way they capture the essence of Charles Schulz’ squiggles with the latest technology actually proves quite fun to watch. The whole movie, directed by Steve Martino, manages that tricky balance between appealing to the old guard of fans while extending a welcome to the new generation.
Unlike a Pixar outing, which plays differently for children and adults, “The Peanuts Movie” works for kids and kids at heart. The film packs a wealth of wisdom with its simplicity of spirit, embracing the old-fashioned charm with little modification. In fact, the movie unabashedly pilfers a number of moments straight from the Peanuts holiday specials. Yet somehow, the joy of watching Linus fend off Sally Brown’s advances, Lucy bossily fume, or Schroeder professing his admiration for Beethoven is not dampened by the familiarity.
The film gets a narrative throughline courtesy of Charlie Brown trying to win over a new girl at school, conveniently named The Little Red-Haired Girl. (Wasn’t kidding about it being old-fashioned.) We all know he has what it takes to impress her, so long as he can get out of his own way … a task easier said than done for Charlie Brown. The missteps and unlucky breaks come fast and furious for our embattled hero, with each one further gaining our sympathy.
Ultimately, Charlie Brown’s tribulations reaffirm the values of dignity and self-esteem in spite of tremendous challenges. This lesson might not be novel, but it will never go out of style. B+ /