I guess that I have a rather common experience with Peanuts. I grew up reading the comics every day in the paper, and owned a number of Peanuts books as a kid. I watched the holiday specials whenever they came on, and to this day consider them a mark that its a appropriate to begin celebrating/anticipating the holiday. As I've gotten older, I've grown to appreciate the genius of Charles Schulz. Eventually, I came to understand how he used the kids to comment on society and his beliefs. Yes, I understand that Snoopy took over a bit, but much of what I love about Peanuts is how it works on multiple levels. Coming into November, I was excited to see how Charlie Brown and his friends would be adapted to a big screen adventure.
Warning: The following is a a spoiler-filled response to The Peanuts Movie, if you haven't seen it, good grief!
In short, I think the creators did a great job with this movie. I really enjoyed it. I think it plays very well to a young audience, as well as adults. I had a big grin plastered across my face through much of the movie, and left happy and sore from my smile workout.
I was glad to see the story include so many references to beloved aspects of the characters (I thought they were going to run through most in the first ten minutes). Yet, there was plenty of room left for the movies to have it's own story. Much like some of the TV specials, I enjoyed the time we spent with the kids, and could have done with a little less of Snoopy's side adventure as a flying ace with the Red Barron. It's ok if that portion drug on a little too long for me, we all have different tastes. Besides, we can spread Charlie Brown's angst a little further out with those light adventures. Sitting through half a dozen kids movie previews and an Ice Age short reminded me that youngsters aren't always respected as an audience. There are some cheap movies out there, with dumbed-down stories and humor. I'm glad that The Peanuts Movie retained its heart, as well as its ability to be enjoyed by humans over 4.
While I think the 3D was completely unnecessary, I really dig the animation style used for the film. I think it was an interesting and modern balance that kept the rough cartoonish feeling of the characters without over-polishing them.
Perhaps I shouldn't listen to the Christmas special back-to back with this, but I think the children they found to voice the characters were excellent matches. I was surprised how familiar each voice felt. Also, casting Trombone Shorty as the adult voices was a stroke of genius.
I have to say that I am an absolute sucker for the messages conveyed through the story, and think they were marvelous words to live by for the kids (and big kids) in the audience. I think we all could use a reminder from time to time that life isn't always about what you accomplish, but how you go about it. It helpful to see a story where failure isn't fatal, and people love our hero in spite of his flaws. Notice how Charlie Brown's friends always invite him to play, even if he thinks he's a complete failure. Like the Little Red Haired Girl, people see through the superficial stuff. In fact, failure informs who you just as much, if not more, than success. Look at Charlie Brown teaching that kid how to fly a kite.
It's those messages at the heart of The Peanuts Movie that did it for me. The animation and casting were solid. It was enjoyable for audience of all ages. Those are well and good. I'll remember and revisit this movie for featuring that lovable Charlie Brown who found a little success after a year of perceived failure. Maybe I'll use this to keep me company when I don't have anything to watch on Arbor Day.