By Olivia Chiu
Charles Schulz’s classic comic Peanuts has captured audiences since its debut on October 2, 1950 and first on-screen adaptation nine years later. The newest animation in the series has hit theaters as the 88-minute long The Peanuts Movie, which remains largely faithful to its comic strip beginnings and cartoon history.
Lucy (voiced by Hadley Belle Miller) offers dubious psychiatry advice for five cents. Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) falls hopelessly in unrequited love with the little red-haired girl (Francesca Capaldi). Snoopy (Bill Melendez) frantically types away at his typewriter with the support of Woodstock (Melendez), detailing the story of the World War I flying ace and the Red Baron. The film even incorporates the classic cartoon style within 3D animation to echo Schulz’s traditional art form.
A brand-new storyline is introduced, with Charlie Brown aspiring to “be a winner” to finally impress his crush. He is riddled with bad luck, but remains optimistic as he enters a talent show, in which he sacrifices his own magic act to salvage his younger sister Sally’s failed performance. He hits the dance floor but ruins the evening with an overzealous routine that results in a flooded gym. Charlie has his victories when he tackles the formidable War and Peace in a book report to earn the gold star for himself and his partner, the little red-haired girl, and when he earns school-wide fame for achieving top marks on a standardized test. However, in true Charlie Brown fashion, both achievements become failures when the former is destroyed and the latter declined in noble honesty. Through all this, he finally obtains his long-desired friendship with the little red-haired girl when she sees his bravery, kindness, and good character.
This all-encompassing plot provides rare closure. Snoopy finishes his novel. Charlie Brown finally flies a kite, and finds the courage to talk to the little red-haired girl, who loves him for who he is. While this creates a satisfying ending, it is this excessive closure that fails to capture the spirit of Peanuts. Charlie Brown isn’t supposed to go from underdog to school hero. Snoopy’s nonsensical typings are supposed to remain arbitrary and unrelated. And the kite-eating tree is supposed to defeat Charlie Brown every time.
Growing up with this series, we are fond of its open-endedness and its repetitive themes. The Peanuts Movie felt like the end of an era. All the problems were solved; all loose ends were tied. We don’t need to root for Charlie Brown any longer; he was carried on his friends’ shoulders and hailed an inspiration to the gang. We don’t have to empathize with his unrequited love; he and the little red-haired girl are well on their way to friendship. In that way, it’s a bittersweet ending: Charlie Brown gets everything he’s ever wanted, and so do we. But the film also presents the final moments of a memory with which we grew up.