By now you already know that The Peanuts Movie is in theaters. You may have seen it, probably with children (either your own or surrounded by them). Maybe you’ve even read Jenny’s review of the film filled with, at rough count, eighty bajillion frame grabs from the movie. I’m here to set the record straight about The Peanuts Movie and Peanuts in general.
Peanuts sucks. More after the break, if you need it.
Yes, the Peanuts comic strip ran for 50 years. And if you’re Gen X or younger then you almost certainly grew up reading the comic strip in the newspaper (remember those) or watching the scattered TV specials that came on seasonally.
They sucked. All of them sucked. I’m sure that in the 50s and 60s they connected with an audience and meant a lot more. But by the 1980s and beyond the only reason we read and watched is because cable hadn’t completely taken over and we still only had a few TV channels and the newspaper ran maybe 4 comic strips.
The comic strip wasn’t funny. It didn’t have much of a story. And we were supposed to identify with a kid that gets picked on by everyone? That sounds like fun.
And my accurate description of the comic strip applies equally to the movie. In this sense, if you are a fan of the comic strip then you may love the movie because it’s just a longer, more colorful, kinda 3D version of it. But if you thought the comic strip jumped from silly quip to not-funny-punchline to boring panels then that’s exactly what you’ll find in the movie. There’s a tiny bit of a story but it merely serves to connect the otherwise completely disjointed ADHD-length segments together. It makes the overall storyline from a Mission: Impossible film seem positively well constructed.
Some additional thoughts:
- The animation style was bizarre. Large shapes were rendered in 3D fashion as a cross between gummy bears and the fuzzy Inside Out characters, but eyes and mouths were left hand drawn. I’m sure they were going for a nostalgic feel to the characters, but as Tom Kelly has repeatedly written on this site, nostalgia doesn’t work if the base material sucks. Here, it’s a bit bizarre especially when the camera tracks around people/objects.
- In a world where a few people can get upset over red Starbucks cups not being Christmasy enough, despite previous cups never being about Christmas, I’m honestly surprised this movie hasn’t generated some silly backlash for taking place in winter and yet having absolutely no Christmas. Besides It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, most people know the Peanuts Christmas special with Charlie Brown’s pitiful Christmas tree. I remember feeling awkward as a Jewish child watching it because it ends with a long reading from the Bible. But that TV movie had a ton more religious content than Starbucks ever did and it was ripped out of the film. Not one word out there. I guess it’s easier to attack Starbucks than Peanuts. In which case, I’m in trouble for writing this column. Bah, bring it!
- The movie feels like they’re trying to cram in every well-known device the comic strip ever used. Snoopy as a writer. Lucy as a psychiatrist. Snoopy fighting the Red Baron. While they do a decent job working these bits in, it still felt like overreaching. When Charlie Brown takes to a snow-filled baseball field just so he can practice and have a hit ball knock all of his clothes off, it’s completely unnecessary to the story. Worse, it’s not even authentic to how it’s portrayed–Charlie Brown goes out to practice saying he’ll never give up and then after that happens we never hear/see baseball again. So by never I guess he meant for at least five seconds.
- With all the bits crammed in, of course they would include Charlie Brown trying to kick a football held by Lucy. And yet strangely, this one is left for the credits and given no context at all. At least the other bits they tried to fit into the movie–this one felt like the writers gave up. “Yup, you want to see it so here you go.”
- My five-year-old son wants to see every kids movie and, as soon as we see it, wants to see it again. He wanted to see Planes again for goodness’ sake. We walked out of this movie at the end and he hasn’t mentioned it once.
Peanuts had a time and place. Now is not the time and the movie theater is not the place. The movie has grossed around $100 million internationally which doesn’t put it into the category of automatic sequel–but even if it earned a sequel there is nothing left to show. All they could do is repeat the same old bits or try and make an actual story–something they should have done this time.
My recommendation is to skip this movie and take your kids to Goosebumps instead. Unless you have a Peanuts collection at home, in which case you’ve already seen the movie.
Score: 2 out of 10 squiggly line frowns.