Going back to the days of my childhood, I was one kid who would happily sit down and watch any 'Peanuts' specials TV would have to offer. While 'Great Pumpkin' and 'Charlie Brown Christmas' are titles everyone's familiar with, I was a bit deeper with things like 'Race for your Life, Charlie Brown', and even a really deep one called 'Why, Charlie Brown, Why?' involving a new girl in town who has to deal with Leukemia.
When it came to a 2015 movie adaptation of something as retro as 'Peanuts', of course, I feared the worst. The typical tends to be one of two painfully repetitive tropes (sometimes both). On one hand, they might try to "update" things as to what the studio thinks is "cool" - see 'Alvin and the Chipmunks'. On the other, you might get a fish out of water story involving fantasy characters in our world - see 'Smurfs'. But thankfully, the trailer for this ended up showing basically none of that. The only thing that has really changed here is the CG animated style. But what's truly amazing about it is that it's perhaps the most basic storyline Charlie Brown has ever really been through.
The film opens with a bit of 'Peanuts' fan service. It opens in wintertime where we see the kids skating, and we see all of our favourites sort of doing their things. But then Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) enters the scene, trying to fly a kite while it's snowing, crashing into a tree, and the kid couldn't be introduced in a much better way. The rest of the gang gets distracted by a moving van that happens to be right across the street from Charlie Brown's house. Enter "The Little Red-Haired Girl" (Francesca Capaldi); the girl he ends up having an everlasting crush on. He wants to talk to her, but he's ultimately too shy, thinking she's something potentially too good for him.
So the basic plot of the movie is simply Charlie Brown trying to do what it takes in order to win the Little Red-Haired Girl's heart. She has been a mainstay in 'Peanuts' for decades now, and this is sort of a more positive take on his feelings for her. Charlie Brown has to learn a lot about himself throughout the process here as well, whereas, in older specials, things were much more simplified and you just had a nervous boy with a crush. His faithful dog, Snoopy (the one and only Bill Melendez) helps him along the way as well, but he's got his own story going on with the origins of his ongoing battle with the Red Baron. In many ways, especially between the Red-Haired Girl and the Red Baron, this movie provides perhaps the best way to introduce the Peanuts gang to today's youth.
On a personal level, I really, thoroughly enjoy this movie. While its most definite aim is at kids, there is something about the overall simplicity of it that I can't help but admire. It's incredibly respectful to the work of Charles Schulz, and does nothing to try to "make it hip". It was as though the creators watched every 'Peanuts' special and said "nothing that goes beyond any of this!" A good example is the fact that throughout the film, we see the kids using their home phones, still attached to their cords, and there's no sign of cell phone technology. Details like that really make things fit what 'Peanuts' is supposed to be. I truly admire the fact that they stayed true to Schulz's work.
This has become one of my go-to movies for times of feeling blue, or inadequate. It's a bit nostalgic, considering it reflects a lot of those old 'Peanuts' TV specials. But more importantly, and as cheesy as it might sound, it just provides this ray of sunshine to the day. This is one of those nice little slice of life movies, it shows kids just being kids, it goes to no extremes with anything, and it just plain feels like 'Peanuts' should. This is one of those movies I can openly recommend to anyone. There's really nothing bad I can say about it. More than anything else, it's that final message the film has that some people could use sometimes. Otherwise, it's just a nice, warm throwback to those good old 'Peanuts' specials we all remember and love.