“Peanuts” revamp brings back feelings of nostalgia

Jennifer Verzuh and Jennifer Verzuh

In so many stories today geared towards younger audiences the protagonist has to be special, set apart and chosen. They can’t be just decent at basketball or football, they have to be the best player in the whole state. It’s not enough to be somewhat intelligent in certain subject, they have to have all A’s and a secret lab where they conduct experiments. If they like to sing, they better have the most beautiful voice and secure a record deal by the time they’re 18.

These stories though, as entertaining as they often are, don’t reflect most kids’ experiences. By only celebrating pure excellence and talent, it leaves many kids feeling inadequate.

That’s why Charlie Brown is still such a refreshing character. It’s been 65 years since Charles M. Schultz’s comic strip Peanuts premiered and next month will see the 50th anniversary of the classic holiday TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Yet even today, Charlie Brown is a fairly revolutionary character simply because he’s not special. He isn’t the best at anything. Most of his attempts at success are met with failure. Yet we still root for him and relate to him. He’s not a rock star or star athlete, but he’s lovable and admirable in his own way.

“The Peanuts Movie” marks a welcome return to the screen for this character and Schulz’s entire gang. The movie is colorful, charming, beautifully animated and retains the spirit of the original comic strip and movies. For kids who are largely unfamiliar with these characters the movie is still inviting, entertaining and easily accessible. For individuals like myself who grew up with Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and Sally, it’s a pleasant, nostalgic way to spend an afternoon, especially with one’s family.

The plot is fairly simple, perhaps overly so. It felt more like one of the Peanuts’ television specials, rather than a feature length theatrical movie, but regardless it works and simplicity is a nice change from the high budget explosions and frills one sees in theaters regularly. The famous little red head girl moves in across the street from Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) and he develops a major crush. This spurs on the main action of the movie, where with the help of his dog Snoopy (Bill Melendez, taken from archival recordings) he attempts to become a winner to impress her. A side plot, which is actually considerably more creative and clever in my opinion, features Snoopy and Woodstock (Melendez again) writing a story where Snoopy as his alias the Flying Ace faces off against his enemy the Red Baron and pursues a romance with fellow pilot and dog, Fifi (who’s interestingly enough, played by Kristin Chenoweth).

The visuals, though markedly different from the original films work very well. It’s playful, enticing and sure to please younger viewers. The score from Christophe Becke is wonderful and thankfully Vince Guaraldi’s original music still pops up from time to time in a way that’s guaranteed to bring back childhood memories. Unfortunately, the movie saw fit to prominently include a song by pop song by Meghan Trainor. It doesn’t fit at all and feels like a poor attempt to modernize the characters.

Look, Charlie Brown is no hero. He’s not Katniss, Tris or Percy Jackson. He’s just a regular kid who tries his best and occasionally fails. And that’s something we could use a lot more of in media.