MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Steve Martino. Animated Feature
Charles Schultz created a comic strip for the ages when he started drawing Peanuts in 1950. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and the entire Peanuts gang is now 65 years old and many film critics have wondered if children of today would be interested in this diverse group of insecure, reflective, and distinctive (with Pigpen being simply “stinktive”) characters.
But, actually, the Peanuts gang has never been out of sight at all, due to the regular annual TV screenings of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”. The Peanuts Movie wisely decided to serve as an update to the animated specials rather than as homage to the comic strips, which featured dry humor and theology along with the laughter.
The movie covers a few weeks in school, including such relatable things as book reports, a school talent show, and a standardized test. As the children navigate the halls of elementary school, Snoopy imagines (once again) that his doghouse is a fighter plane and that he is going after his WWI nemesis, The Red Baron.
Charlie’s main concern is the little red haired girl who has moved into his neighborhood. He is smitten but cannot find the courage to really get to know her. Try as he might to make a good impression, he seems to stumble in his efforts.
The film is happy to take place in the pre-technology age of the twentieth century. The only communication devices in the movie are landline rotary phones. There is no Internet and no texting. (Personally, I think that we will be seeing more films set in the past or a pre-technology world since smart phones have surely insinuated themselves as an irritating presence in movie plots.)
I was surprised and delighted with a nice plot turn toward the end of the film that brought Charlie Brown some vindication. But – not to worry – the filmmakers make sure that things are dialed back to normal before film’s end.
The 3D animation is a nice touch, and the film introduces some of Charles Schultz’s 2D line drawings (in thought balloons) to remind us of his artistic genius. The musical score incorporates some of Vince Guaraldi’s delightful jazz themes from the TV specials, accompanied by some new music by Christophe Beck and a fun pop single from Meghan Trainor.
With no swearing, no suggestive dialogue, no explosions or pop culture updates, The Peanuts Movie is simply a good time at the movies for families and kids of all ages.
Five halos: A sweet and funny film with a positive message.
One pitchfork: For Lucy Van Pelt.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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