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Family Movie Review: The Peanuts Movie (G)

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MPAA Rating: G        Length: 93 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 6+. This film, inspired by the classic “Peanuts” comics by Charles M. Schulz, touches on the same themes as the original works, but in a more bluntly expressed fashion. There are numerous discussions about insecurity and lack of self-confidence, some romantic subplots (kids having crushes on each other), some goofy gags (Lucy, of course, pulls the football away before Charlie Brown can kick it), and some violence with Snoopy chasing the Red Baron pilot and engaging in some high-altitude artillery fire.

The classic ‘Peanuts’ characters come to life again with ‘The Peanuts Movie,’ which does its best to live up to Charles M. Schulz’s original works. It’s cute, if too willing to spell out its self-esteem themes for young viewers.

By Roxana Hadadi

Charlie Brown has always been somewhat pathetic, but in Charles M. Schulz’s original comics and television specials, he was never too blatant in his concern about his own self-worth. He lived and let live. In “The Peanuts Movie,” Charlie Brown lays it all out—considering himself an “insecure, wishy-washy failure”—and that bluntness is one of the film’s few flaws. The story is mostly cute, but its discussion of self-worth feels too deliberate.

But perhaps that’s because every children’s movie now has to reaffirm its protagonist’s exceptionalness (see: “Turbo,” “Hotel Transylvania 2,” “Pan”), and so “The Peanuts Movie” has to make it explicitly clear that Charlie Brown isn’t a loser, but a kind, compassionate, brave child who values his friends and family, and whose own self-worth is found in the value he has for others. The movie does a nice job demonstrating that on its own, though, so the film’s final scene—of all of Charlie Brown’s friends listing why they like him so much—feels repetitive and unnecessary.

Children won’t really notice that—they’ll be too busy giggling over Snoopy’s shenanigans—but for parents who grew up on the “Peanuts” comics, the movie will feel like a tonal shift. Nevertheless, “The Peanuts Movie” is an enjoyable trip to the movie theater, probably the best children’s film to come out this year since this summer’s Pixar offering, “Inside Out.”

It’s a new school year, and Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp, of “Bridge of Spies”) and his friends are excited for snow days, wary of homework, and mostly comfortable with themselves. Only Charlie Brown seems to be concerned about who he is, and that manifests acutely with the arrival of his new neighbor, whom he nicknames “The Little Red-Haired Girl” (voiced by Francesca Capaldi).

Charlie Brown is immediately smitten, and realizes that in this new classmate, he can reinvent himself. Normally he’s the kind of guy who wonders “Why is it that everything I try turns out wrong?” and who frenemy Lucy (voiced by Hadley Belle Miller) labels a “failure,” but with his lovable, quirky dog Snoopy’s help, maybe he can become someone different.

Maybe he can win the school talent show with his magic act. Maybe he can be a better dancer and stand out at the school dance. Maybe he can impress the Little Red-Haired Girl with his book report on “War and Peace.” As the school year progresses, Charlie Brown cycles through a variety of incarnations in an attempt to win the attention of the Little Red-Haired Girl, and all the while he considers who he is.

“The whole world seems to be conspiring against me,” he complains—but isn’t Charlie Brown who he is because of that hardship? The movie does a great job demonstrating that Charlie Brown’s personality is tied together with his tenacity, with his loyalty to his friends, and with his courage in the face of any hardship. Kids can discover a great role model here.

It helps that all the characters are pitch-perfect, from Linus’s (voiced by Alexander Garfin) sage, almost too-mature advice to Snoopy’s (voiced using old recordings of Bill Melendez, who originally voiced Snoopy until his death in 2008) devotion, creativity, and imagination. Everything Snoopy does here is gold, from his battles with the Red Baron to his interactions with bird friend Woodstock. Parents should prepare to buy a lot of beagle merchandise from now on.

Ultimately, the film ends on a too-obvious note, with everyone gathering around to tell Charlie Brown why he’s so great. The comics were never that blatant. But “The Peanuts Movie” gets almost everything else right, and for kids and parents alike, it’s a gentle crowd-pleaser.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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