With so much horrific violence and prejudice spotlighted in the media this holiday season, it can be hard to look at the world in a positive light. Luckily for all of us weighed down by the lack of apparent goodwill in our society, there is a heartwarming cinematic work to renew our sense of hope and belief in the best of ourselves and others: The Peanuts Movie. I know the notion of an animated children’s movie instilling a newfound sense of joy and comfort in college students and adults everywhere may seem far-fetched, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that I left the film feeling changed—or at least feeling a lot more optimistic. I laughed, I cried, my boyfriend laughed at me for crying and I laughed some more.
The main plotline of the film centers on the lovably insecure underdog Charlie Brown and his misadventures with the Peanuts gang as he attempts to show everyone that he’s a winner to win the heart of the Little Red-Haired Girl—a character who he is hopelessly and adorably smitten with in both the comics and previous films. The inclusion of canonically accurate elements such as this, the Kite-Eating Tree, Lucy’s counseling stand, Snoopy’s typewriter and the “B” story of Snoopy’s encounters with the Red Baron all serve to enhance the overall quality of the film—and make it that much more special for long-time fans like myself.
Brown’s determination to impress his crush is endearing and relatable. I couldn’t stop smiling while watching him work so hard to try to win the school talent show with a magic act or practicing dance moves in his room with Snoopy so he could be crowned the contest winner. The funniest attempt for me, however, was watching Brown complete an entire book report on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace while the Little Red-Haired Girl—his assigned project partner who was visiting her sick grandma—wouldn’t have to worry about finishing the assignment.
In true Peanuts fashion, however, all of his attempts to triumph are met with failure. He sets off the fire sprinklers at the dance contest and his book report is shredded to bits. But in these failures, we see the unyielding selflessness and perseverance of his character.
He skips his chance to perform at the talent show by helping out his sister Sally, who is bombing miserably onstage with her cowgirl act until her big brother comes to the rescue by running onstage as a cow. Despite his own struggles to successfully fly a kite, he helps another child to do it and doesn’t feel bitter. When he receives a “perfect” standardized test score and suddenly becomes the most popular boy in school, he sacrifices the admiration of his peers when he realizes that the score was actually Peppermint Patty’s—and admits it to a whole auditorium. These simple, moral acts show who he really is—as blanket-toting Linus gently reminded him, “a good person.”
The Little Red-Haired Girl, too, is able to appreciate Brown and chooses Brown as a pen pal at the end. I cried not only at this, but with his sincerity in asking her, “Why me?”—a really poignant moment for any of us who have ever failed to see our own worth. She explains that she loves his compassion and his honesty—I was left smiling with mascara-smudged cheeks.
The film’s narrative and thematic elements shined through to convey an important message about the power and beauty in the kindness and support of others, as well as the importance of believing in oneself. And in a world with so much darkness, it was a refreshing reminder that you and those around you can make all the difference in creating light.