A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Peanuts Movie is a sweetly nostalgic, mostly gentle take on the characters from the beloved comic strip/TV specials. Charlie Brown is still his same awkward, insecure self -- and Lucy is still rude and yells a lot -- but there's less of the insult language ("stupid," "blockhead") than in the classic specials, and there's no mistaking the movie's positive messages about being yourself, trying hard, and liking people for who they really are. Many characters have crushes on others (Charlie Brown blushes around the Little Red-Haired Girl, Sally calls Linus her "sweet babboo," Lucy flings herself at Schroeder, etc.), and you can expect aerial dogfights and peril in Snoopy's World War I flying ace fantasy sequences (which may feel even more intense in 3D), but it's nothing that most older preschoolers/younger grade schoolers won't be able to handle. Charlie Brown shakes his bottom briefly during a dance scene, and his clothes fall off as the result of one of his many comic pratfalls, but overall the movie has a slightly softer edge (and more upbeat tone) than some of the older specials.
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What's the story?
In THE PEANUTS MOVIE, Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) is having a typical winter -- ice skating with his friends (and knocking them all over by accident), being berated by Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller), getting advice from Linus (Alexander Garfin), looking forward to kite/baseball season -- when his world is turned upside down by the arrival of the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi). Immediately besotted, our insecure, accident-prone hero wants more than anything for her to see him for who he really is, which sets off a series of vignettes in which he tries to turn himself into a winner: performing at the school talent show, showing off his new moves at the winter dance, writing the world's greatest book report. Of course, since he's Charlie Brown, even the best intentions can't prevent things from turning out wrong. But then something unexpectedly goes right, and he becomes the toast of the school: Will the Little Red-Haired Girl finally notice him? Meanwhile, Snoopy (Bill Melendez) dreams of being a World War I flying ace -- when he's not helping Charlie Brown or kissing Lucy, of course.
Is it any good?
Sweet, gentle, and nostalgic in tone (there's nary a smartphone to be seen!), this movie does right by the classic comic strips and TV specials so beloved by fans. While it has a slightly softer edge than the older stuff (fewer disgusted uses of "stupid" and "blockhead," for example, and more optimism on the part of Charlie Brown), all of the touchstones are there: Vince Guaraldi's jazzy music, Snoopy's vivid fantasy life, Lucy's psychiatric advice booth, the classic Peanuts dance moves, Pigpen's dust cloud, Linus' earnest advice -- heck, there's even a zamboni.
A particularly nice touch is the way the characters' eyes are animated; they look and feel hand drawn, which makes them both expressive and reminiscent of the comic strips. That style also comes into play when the characters remember things (their memory bubbles look like the comics) and when Snoopy slurps Lucy's face with a big SMAK! The Peanuts Movie is true to its roots in other ways, too: Its humor is more thoughtful than laugh-out-loud, and there are lines that little kids were never meant to understand ("I just came down with a serious case of inadequacy" and "I'm cashing in on your celebrity," for instance). But while they may not always know why their parents are chuckling, kids will definitely get the movie's core messages about believing in yourself and trying hard.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Charlie Brown learns during The Peanuts Movie. Why is perseverance more important than winning? What matters more: Being popular or doing the right thing? What's the danger of always thinking of yourself as inadequate/a failure? And what do the other characters learn about Charlie Brown? Why is it important to like someone for who they really are? How can you figure out who that is? Are first impressions always right?
Is Lucy a bully? Why or why not? What things does she do that could be considered bullying? How do the others react? Which characters show compassion? What would you say or do if someone talked to you the way Lucy talks to Charlie Brown?
For those who love the Peanuts comics and/or the classic TV specials: How do you think this movie compares? What does it have in common with the comics and specials? How is it different?
Nobody says what time period the movie takes place in, but the characters use rotary phones (and don't have devices/screens everywhere). Did you notice the lack of technology in the kids' lives? How does that compare to what you're used to? Do you think one way is better than the other?
Kids: What made you want to see this movie: the story or all the product tie-ins? Do you want something because Charlie Brown/Peanuts is pictured on it? What's the impact of advertising on kids?
- In theaters: November 6, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: March 8, 2016
- Cast: Francesca Capaldi, Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller
- Director: Steve Martino
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Compassion, Perseverance
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: January 24, 2020
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