Flaccid Peanuts

Tuesday, 29 April, 2014

On March 18, a teaser trailer dropped which will fuel my nightmares for months. Was it some grotesque horror squelchfest? A surreal Freudian fever-dream? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? No. It was a trailer for a CG-animated kids’ film called Peanuts.

Peanuts was a widely-syndicated comic strip that ran from 1950 to 2000. I can forgive you (just this once) if you haven’t heard of it, but I have no doubt that—if you really are a human being who consumes popular culture and not some sort of asocial moleperson—you’re familiar with its two main characters, Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Peanuts comics and the various associated cartoons are icons, which have been beloved worldwide for generations.

Exactly how iconic are we talking here? Well, the Peanuts cast made the cover of Time magazine. The first musical based on it—You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown—debuted in 1967. The initial run lasted four years and it remains one of the most performed musicals in the US. There are even Peanuts theme parks. Here’s the clincher: once, a two-year-old Alex Davis—son of Garfield creator Jim Davis—pointed to one of his father’s drawings and said, “Snoopy!” It was a drawing of Garfield.

So naturally, it was inevitable that a Peanuts feature film be proposed.

I adore Peanuts. The comics, the cartoons, the giant plush Snoopy that I have cuddled far more than I’ve cuddled any human being. All of it. It’s been a constant source of solace, wisdom, and hysterical laughter.

So naturally, the very notion of a Peanuts feature film chills me to my core.

There is no chance that I won’t see this movie, unless I am blinded, comatose, or dead before its release in November 2015. As a lifelong fan from a family of lifelong fans, I have little to no choice in the matter. There is, however, every chance that this movie will be terrible.

See, Peanuts did something that is very rare in any medium—it spoke to people of all ages. Not in the way that is so common in films and television marketed towards children these days, either—this inane “oh let’s throw in some pop culture references and mild innuendo to keep the parents awake” bullshit.

On one hand, Snoopy is delusional, silly, and endlessly fun, whereas Charlie Brown is neurotic, insecure, and singularly relatable. Without balance, a film adaptation could easily be too childish or seriously depressing.

The original Peanuts managed to bring these two together in a unique way. There is not one level of Peanuts for kids to enjoy and another “deeper” level for adults. The case is simply that both kids and adults can appreciate it, in its sarcasm and its slapstick, and its heartbreaking melancholy and its ebullient joy.

When was the last time you saw a movie like that? When was the last time you saw a movie that could resonate on such a level? When was the last time you saw a movie that didn’t talk down—or up—to anybody?

For me, it’s been a while.