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“The Peanuts Movie” Celebrates 50 Years of Charlie Brown on Screen

Schulz's beloved characters rock the big screen

Fox Family Entertainment

20th Century Fox and Peanuts

20th Century Fox and Peanuts

Neil MacLeod, Contributor

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On December 9, 1965, the world received “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” a soon-to-be beloved holiday classic starring the characters in Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip. Fifty years later, everyone’s favorite beagle returns in “The Peanuts Movie,” a film by Blue Sky Studios, the makers of “Ice Age” and “Rio,” and directed by Steve Martino (“Horton Hears a Who”). 

The plot is simple: Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp), falls in love with The Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi of “Dog with a Blog” fame), but is beginning to get frustrated with his bad luck (who could blame him after 65 years of falling on his back trying to kick a football?) Determined to impress the girl of his dreams, Charlie Brown sets out to become a winner. Meanwhile, Snoopy (Bill Melendez, through archival recordings), attempts to write a book about his famed “World War I Flying Ace” persona, in which he must defeat the Red Baron to save a poodle named Fifi (Kristen Chenoweth). Other familiar characters include Linus (Alex Garfin), Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller), Sally (Mariel Sheets), Peppermint Patty (Venus Omega Schultheis), Marcie (Rebecca Bloom), Pig-Pen (AJ Teece), Woodstock (also Melendez), and Schroeder (Noah Johnston). 

The movie contains moments that will make you laugh until you can’t breathe.”

— Neil MacLeod

The film’s animation fits the classic style of the comic strip and specials well, but the extra third dimension, courtesy of  CGI (computer generated imagery), makes everything look like clay. The film also has many references to the classic Peanuts specials. Early in the film, Snoopy grabs Linus’s signature blanket, leading to an ice-skating line similar to the one from the opening of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” And later, during one of Snoopy’s fantasies, he attempts to infiltrate a choir of kids singing the opening song from the special. The references to classic Peanuts are all quite nostalgic, from Lucy’s 5-cent psychiatrist stand to the classic scenes of Charlie Brown falling on his back after a failed football kick, and losing his clothes after a successful bat. 

The film has no new characters, but there are quite a lot of existing ones. Its ensemble even features many of the minor characters, from trombone talking Miss Othmar (Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews) to Shermy (William “Alex” Wunsch), who appeared in early strips, had the first line of dialogue ever in the franchise, and eventually disappeared (he doesn’t do much in the movie either, poor guy). The fact that such lesser known characters are used shows the depth of the franchise and the movie’s love affair with the classic characters. 

The film’s World War I Flying Ace sequences are quite epic compared to the famed scenes from “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” The backgrounds are grand in scale and style, and Snoopy’s brief encounters with reality are hilarious. The movie also contains other moments that will make you laugh until you can’t breathe; the 20th Century Fox theme is played by none other than Schroeder; Charlie Brown tries to fly a kite in winter (the Kite-Eating tree still wins), and Peppermint Patty draws a smiley face using her standardized test answers. 

All in all, the movie shows off the franchise’s long history, famed gags, and is a fitting tribute to both the 65th anniversary of the comic and 50th anniversary of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” If that wasn’t enough, the two mid-credit scenes are worth the wait, and the film is shown with an “Ice Age” short (picture the prehistoric squirrel Scrat in a UFO). You’d have to be a blockhead to not love this movie.

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“The Peanuts Movie” Celebrates 50 Years of Charlie Brown on Screen