This is the happy ending we were all waiting for.
Peanuts was always a little hit and miss for me. I liked Linus and Snoopy and PigPen and Marcie, but found it downright depressing when once again Lucy would get good ol' Charlie Brown to fall for her disappearing football trick.
That's why this film is better than comic. It has the strip's funniest bits (we even find out how the Red Baron first became Snoopy's nemesis) minus the melancholy. Sure, Charlie Brown still has more than his share of misfortunes, but he also has good friends – including a far more loyal version of Snoopy – to help pick him back up and push him to keep on trying.
The storyline revolves around a new kid who has just moved across the street. She has red-hair and very good judgment, and from the moment Charlie Brown sets eyes on her he wants to figure out a way to go talk to her. That proves to be a very difficult, largely due to the difficulties Charlie Brown sets up for himself. But with some help from Linus, Snoopy, Marcie and others, our hapless hero learns how to bravely go where Charlie Brown has never gone before.
Our family isn't up for anything all that scary, so I was wondering how the girls would react to the scenes where Snoopy finds the Red Baron. It turned out that the comic setting made it very clear to our little ones that this was not at all real, so they weren't phased at all.
The only cautions I can come up with would be of the most minor sort. Charlie Brown falls in love at first sight and continues to obsess about a girl he has never even talked to. But of course, he's also 6, and kids do dumb things sometimes.
Also, near the end of the film Charles, frustrated by how circumstances were conspiring against him. seems to say a little prayer: "I'm just asking for a little help once in my life." Afterwards he gets what would seem some Divine intervention – he gets tangled up in a kite which pulls him up and over the crowd that was blocking his way. Now God is never specifically mentioned, so Charlie Brown might just be talking to "the Fates" but considering the many (but muddled) references to God in the original strip, it would seem more logical to conclude Charlie Brown is actually talking to God here. If so, his "Don't I deserve a break?" plea shows that Charles is not a Calvinist. At the same time, it doesn't get anywhere near being blasphemous.
While Charlie Brown has always been a man of persistence, here his many positive qualities are finally recognized. (SPOILER ALERT) One of the key scenes in the film has Charlie Brown having to choose between being honest and being popular, and the really refreshing take here is that our good ol' Charles doesn't even hesitate before doing the right thing. There's lots of material here that would make good fodder for discussions about caring for our siblings, standing up to peer pressure, and also recognizing our own gifts.
The producers have made a wonderful homage to Schulz's work, and, in fact, actually improved on it. A Charlie Brown who doesn't have to wait 50 years for a little happiness is a wonderful step up on the original!