I remember growing up with Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts through reading the comic strips printed in the Herald Sun newspaper as well as watching the television show in the morning. It’s hard to believe that this cartoon as been around for 65 years with creator Charles M. Schulz first publishing his comic strip in October 1950. And now decades later it has been revitalized within the digital age of cinema for both adults who have been long time fans as well as a new generation of kids.
Thankfully the core elements of the characters and storyline have been well maintained in this film adaptation. It helps that the screenplay is written by Charles’ son and grandson, Brain and Craig Schulz, in order to keep the legacy alive. The animation has had a huge face-lift and whilst there are cosmetic differences in both the three-dimension environments and the characters themselves, there is still a familiarity from the old school comic strip days. In fact, there are moments in which these original flat 2D cartoons are referenced via thought bubbles.
The film begins with all the Peanuts having a day off school thanks to a Snow Day. Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) is determined to fly his kite despite the fact that it’s in the middle of Winter and drastically fails. Here we see his self-doubt and inadequacy issues come to the fore not helped by Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller) who puts him down. However the rest of the Peanuts including Marcie (Rebecca Bloom), Patty (Anastasia Bredikhina), Linus (Alexander Garfin) and Schroeder (Noah Johnston) try to encourage him to keep trying.
This is a theme that is continually repeated throughout the film as no matter how hard Charlie tries, he is doomed to failure. His trusty dog Snoopy (Bill Melendez) and the yellow bird Woodstock (also Bill Melendez) are constant supports for Charlie. A parallel storyline is set up alongside Charlie Brown’s as Snoopy whips out his typewriter and goes about writing a fantasy story involving the Red Baron and a romantic love interest Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth).
When all the Peanuts return to school, everyone is talking about the new girl in class, simply known as The Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi). Charlie instantly forms a romantic attraction towards her and goes about planning ways to ask her out. Unfortunately Charlie is incredibly shy, nervous and hesitant even with the numerous signs coming his way to show that she might be interested.
After achieving the highest score on a test, Charlie is instantly recognised as a hero and suddenly everybody tries to become his best friend. He struggles to handle all the extra attention and instead focuses on both the Winter dance and the book report. He works hard at both to ensure that he impresses the Red Haired Girl but sadly things don’t go entirely to plan and he ends up humiliating himself.
Back to Snoopy’s storyline, the Red Baron is used here as a clever metaphor for the thing that is holding you back from achieving your goals such as anxiety, negative self talk, self-doubt, self-consciousness and sensitivity. In the various “Chapters”, Snoopy tries hard to shoot the Red Baron down with his dog kennel acting as the plane. He is also trying hard to chase after Fifi in her plane which is the equivalent of what Charlie is trying to do with the Red-Haired Girl.
Whilst this is clearly a film that is primarily aimed at young children, there are also some important life lessons deeply embedded in the material. Concepts such as goal setting and believing in yourself are really important to understand particularly at a young age and in a society where we are constantly told that “we’re not good enough”. But director Steve Martino wisely balances these issues with plenty of funny lines and humourous animations throughout the film.
Overall this film could have been a simply recycling of a television episode or a classic comic strip and whilst it does contain many elements from both (The Red Baron, Snoopy and his dog kennel, rivalry between Charlie and Lucy), it also teaches kids and adults alike some important life lessons. Though Charlie may paint himself as an “insecure, wishy-washy failure” by the end of the film, the Red-Haired Girl was able to see his positive qualities which are much more important such as honesty, bravery and compassion. 9/10
You can view the official trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYA.