Thi is it! The coveted ACTUAL G rated movie. There's nothing at all offensive or even questionable in this movie. Is there peril? Nope! Not a thing! There's not a real action sequence in the movie. Snoopy imagines himself being the Flying Ace against the Red Baron, but it isn't real and the movie stresses it. The most questionable emotion you might have from this movie is the sympathetic heartbreak that you feel for Charlie Brown as he fumbles his way around a childhood crush. G. Actual. Real. G.
DIRECTOR: Steve Martino
I actually can't believe that I haven't written about this movie before. I've seen this movie too many times. It's Henry's absolute favorite of all time movie. He might not say that anymore. I had to move his poster from a prominent spot in his room to his closet. He's all into Sonic the Hedgehog now. This is a phase. (An expensive phase, but a phase nonetheless.) But when he picked this as his family movie night choice and saw how happy he was, I know what's up. He loves that this is one of the most innocent movie that never even gives him the opportunity to get scared. I think I may have seen this movie a dozen or so times, but I'm sure I don't stay for the whole thing. The Peanuts Movie quickly became the standard for long car rides and for "Dad needs to clean the house. You guys watch this movie so I'm not cleaning over you."
There is something absolutely gorgeous about this movie. I don't think it got a lot of attention when it was in theaters and I'm really not barking for a sequel. The Peanuts Movie, as much as I'm going to gush over it, is a movie that is far more important to today's culture than one would ever think. I can't say I'm a big fan of the Peanuts concept as a whole. We live a decent distance away from Kings Island. Kings Island, like the entire Cedar theme park family, has the Peanuts license for their kids section of the park. We have Planet Snoopy, which is super fun. Because we're fairly close to the park, we would regularly take our kids to Planet Snoopy, which used to blow their minds. Because of this, our kids took a deep dive into these characters. In my head, Charlie Brown and his friends were perfect animated characters to get obsessed with. It was only after watching some of the more beloved cartoons --and I beg you to separate your sense of nostalgia with what I'm about to say --that I realized those kids are huge jerks. Peanuts cartoons were about a bunch of bullies who practically hung out with Charlie Brown because they loved to comment on his constant failure. The strip might have been better. One thing I realized about a lot of newspaper strips is that they were rarely funny, but more tonally light-hearted than anything else. But those cartoons are about of mean kids, with perhaps the exception of Linus, who just loved discouraging this kid from trying in life.
Maybe that's what I love about The Peanuts Movie as a concept. Yeah, those other movies and shorts ended up being overall family-friendly because my kids didn't pick up on it (OR THEY DID AND THERE'S SOME THERAPY I NEED TO START PAYING FOR!). But the film rectifies the core of that problem. Charlie Brown is still a lovable loser. Nothing he does really comes out right. That's kind of Charlie Brown's defining trait. It's the Little Engine that Could that really can't. But sanding out the rougher edges of the ancillary Peanuts characters changes the whole thing. Charlie Brown's daily life becomes far more heroic in the light of an environment that is mostly supportive, shy of Lucy, Charlie Brown and his try again attitude make a lot more sense. The film vocalizes the small heroism of a kid like Charlie Brown and actively celebrates it. The Little Redhead Girl sees the goodness that is inside him. The movie never makes Charlie creepy or anything, but just cripplingly shy. That's an important distinction to make. The movie picks just the right side of the loser asking out the pretty girl narrative. I'm going to get to that in a second, but it is worth noting that Charlie is actually a pretty good guy. But the fact that he exists in a world where people don't mind him trying and trying again gives him appropriate confidence boosters. The big moment in the movie, which reads more like an anthology of Peanuts strips rather than a cohesive plot, is Charlie's test. Even though Charlie always fails, the idea that he got a perfect score isn't mind-boggling for people. Besides Lucy, no one calls out for a rescore or shames him into thinking that he didn't deserve it. Instead, the class celebrates him and draws their attention on themselves. I love that my kids see that. They know that Charlie Brown made a mistake and still, they are happy that he is celebrated. It's even more rewarding knowing that Charlie Brown is honest once he realizes the mistake that was made.
Charlie Brown isn't creepy. I know, you've probably never even put him in the context of being creepy. But the entire movie, it could be said that he's stalking this girl and the movie validates him for doing so by having the Little Redhead Girl return his affections. What The Peanuts Movie does successfully is that it doesn't punish feelings. Charlie Brown feels what he feels. He never forces himself into her life. If anything, the movie rewards him respecting her. It's a little depressing thinking that this kid doesn't have the confidence to basically talk to her, but he also is dealing with a lot. Rather than punish Charlie for what has to be a stressful childhood, it rewards him by stressing the good that he does throughout the film. The Little Redhead Girl isn't smitten with him, but she respects him. I'm not making this stuff up in an attempt to get some rad analysis into this writing. She straight up lists off all of the altruistic acts he does throughout the film, especially sacrificing his big moment to help with his sister's performance. She may not be enamored by Charlie Brown, the lovable loser. But she sees this self-sacrificing kid and admires that. Rather than thinking that she is above him, she models her life off of her choices. And Charlie, instead of thinking that he's done all of these good things, thinks of himself as unworthy of her affections. The toxicity of a relationship comes from thinking that one needs to be paid and compensated for good behavior. Charlie never really has that attitude. He doesn't fall into the category of "gross good guy" because he's just a kid who does good for good's sake. It's actually shocking to him to notice that people admire that about him.
The movie is just so unabashedly nice. This is a love letter to what Charles Schultz made, but also does a fine job updating the problematic elements of it. Charlie still isn't able to kick the football and that's really fundamental to his character. But he's also the model for sainthood. He bears his cross and refuses to give up, despite the fact that all evidence says that he's going to fail. By making the world cool with failure, Charlie is allowed to shine as a character that we're not laughing at, but laughing with. He's not this traumatized boy. He's just a kid trying to do his best when things don't work out.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.