Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Peanuts Movie: A Mini-Review

A more thorough review will appear once the film has been released on DVD, with screencaps.

Until then, join me as I think back fondly on yesterday.

My best friend and I went to the 11:20 AM showing of "The Peanuts Movie" (AKA, "The Vicissitudes of a Blockhead") at a theater in Frederick, Maryland.  This necessitated a drive of just under an hour.  Was this the nearest movie house?  No.  Were we willing to brave Rockville?  No.  The idea of seeing the big screen return of Chuck B. and the gang after 35 years away in the city that I once called home, the city that I miss to the point of aches and agonies, was simultaneously too much and just what I needed.

I'd visited the Westview Promenade on Buckeystown Pike a few times during my stint as a Fredericker, but never stepped inside the Regal Cinemas there.  There was some overpriced theater food, some cool, classic upright entertainment, and a smattering of other folks, most probably there to see "Spectre."

Trick and I were the first people in Theater 10.  (By the time the 20th Century Fox fanfare sounded, we would be joined by four other bodies, all tall enough to ride the rides at any amusement park.) We sat in the upper-middle section, loose-limbed and expectant, Charlie Brown and Snoopy hoodie snug on my torso.

The previews were a mixed bag.  "Norm of the North" looks hideous.  A POLAR BEAR IN THE BIG CITY, Y'ALL!  Also, someone allowed another Chipmunks movie to happen.  Jason Lee, what the hell happened to your life?    Your face is the sad crag of compromise.  Both trailers featured overplayed songs:  "Back in Black" for "Norm," and "Baby Got Back" for Chipmunks.  The mental mashup I made of the former's music with the latter's lyrics was and is, I promise you, funnier than whatever the funniest moment turns out to be in either of those flicks.

"The Good Dinosaur" looks, at the very least, mesmerizing.  It didn't make me want to fashion the drawstrings of my hoodie into a noose, so that's something.

My demands for "The Peanuts Movie" were simple.  Be true, be funny.  (I try not to demand more than two things per item/experience.  For onion rings, I ask only--be large, be crunchy.  For flights--be safe, be infant-free.  And so on.)  These demands were met.  Any qualms about the classic characters being rendered in CG, any concerns that the first film since 1980 would kowtow to modernity, any dread that Blue Sky and the Schulz family were co-conspirators in a scheme to deface an icon...all you have to do is watch with a mind and heart both ready to feel. 

The main plot (Charlie Brown's crush on the Little Red-Haired Girl) and the subplot (Flying Ace Snoopy's crush on pilot poodle Fifi, "voiced" by noted fan Kristin Chenoweth) are both as substantial as they need to be, but most of the animated Peanuts offerings depend on so-called "filler" material:  the preternatural musings and puerile frivolities of the kids in the neighborhood.  It makes sense that what powered the comics would locomotion the screen adaptations as well, so, smartly, the creative team borrowed liberally from the source material.  Nothing uttered--or animated--struck me as out of place.  Yes, Charlie Brown takes a blue recycling bin out to the curb, but Snoopy still taps out fantastical tales of wartime on a typewriter.  Still not convinced?  Two words:  rotary phones.

The filmmakers throughout acknowledge the legacy of Peanuts while telling their story. Charlie Brown's thoughts appear in the flat figures and clean lines of the comic strips.  Peppermint Patty is so crushed out on the blockhead that she rings him up just to order him around.  Lucy is Queen Alaskan Crab.  Sally is touchingly naive and hilariously avaricious.  Snoopy is a scene-stealer par excellence.

I (repeatedly) laughed, I (almost) cried, I felt proud to be a Peanuts fan.   I can't wait to see it again.


  1. A really wonderful continuation of the original comic strip's great legacy that should earn it an entire new generation of fans, and is guaranteed to make you smile.

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  2. I'm very impatient to see this movie again. It. Was. EXCELLENT.