Sunday, November 29, 2015

Movie Review: Peanuts Movie

Wrapping up a long holiday weekend after a super-stressful couple of weeks. We wanted a family movie, and considered The Good Dinosaur. When I looked up the movie times, I saw a reminder ad for the monthly Sensory Sensitive Films. For November, it was the Peanuts Movie. Sold!

What is a sensory sensitive movie showing? It's:
  • Leaving the lights partially up ...
  • Turning the soundtrack much lower than regular showings ...
  • Creating a welcome environment for families with members who cannot tolerate loud noises, sit still through a movie, or have verbal stims to help get them through something exciting like a movie out in public.
Our local theatre provides this on the last Saturday of each month at 10:00 am, and I salute the heck out of them for this!
Back to the movie ... James knows the Peanuts gang. He may not have grown up reading them in the newspapers the way I did, and we don't have TV, so he's missed the TV specials on holidays, but the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack is a perennial favourite at home and on car trips. Every week on our shopping trip, James looks for Peanuts character dolls in our local Trader Joe's -- James has friends among the crew members, who "help"him look -- he loves his lollipop reward for finding their hideout in the store. We've visited Snoopy's Ice Arena, toured the Charles Schultz Museum (which also sponsors traveling Science Exhibits for our schools), and cursed the Red Barron in the skies overhead during our annual air show at the Charles M. Schultz airport -- of course we wanted to see this movie!

Two thumbs up for a well-done tribute to the series and characters. I was not sold on the 3D-ish animated treatment until I saw it onscreen -- it's a simple (to look at), charming mix of old and new that I think works very well. The characters look, sound, and feel very true to what I grew up with. Snoopy, who I feel became much larger and complicated than originally intended, was, to me, very recognizable. All his personae were there: good dog/Charlie Brown's ally, WWI Flying Ace, Joe Cool, Dark & Stormy Night writer, and Woodstock's friend. Charlie Brown's honesty, compassion, and staying true to himself despite all his bad luck shines through in a very refreshing way that I think has been missing from recent Peanuts animations.

The plot is simple, like Peanuts was written/drawn for the newspapers, and the kids are refreshingly kid-like and timeless, without being cloying or too mature. A lot of familiar and well-loved themes are woven into the simple story in a way that feels like snuggling down in a familiar patchwork quit that visually cues happy memories. If you like the Peanuts gang, you should definitely see this movie. If you are looking for modern re-imaginings classics, like Cat In the Hat, The Grinch, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or the Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, this is probably not for you.

Speaking as a parent of sensory-overloaded kids, having the soundtrack down low was a big help. I really liked the way the dogfights were not too loud or chaotic and the planes sounded realistic, but reproduced on a muted level. While James squirmed and started asking if the movie was going to be over before we hit the 2/3 way through mark, the vignettes were short and attention-getting. I enjoyed being able to redirect James by connecting his local experiences with the Peanuts characters to the characters onscreen, without feeling like I was detracting from the movie experience of the rest of the audience. Twice, James had to use the bathroom, and because the lights were partially up, this was not a big deal. A couple times we heard verbal stims from other audience members, and felt right at home.

Definitely, I give the movie, theatre, and film series two big Thumbs Up. We plan to return for next month's movie: The Good Dinosaur.

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