Saturday, November 7, 2015

I saw a movie! In an actual movie theater!

So thanks to my older son's elementary school showing It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! to the kids the day before Halloween, he decided he would like to see The Peanuts Movie. And based on how good he and his younger brother were when we saw Big Hero 6, we decided to take them. I had read a couple of reviews beforehand, so I knew I wasn't going into a gritty reboot or something that in striving to be contemporary (more on a movie that looks to be doing that in a bit) winds up disconnecting from the original material. But I was worried that it wouldn't live up to the comic strips and TV specials I'd grown up with.

Which, really, was too high a standard, as what were the odds that the movie would ever live up to the original material? But I am happy to say that the film managed to be entertaining and engaging for both the kids and the adults in our party. For the former group, the gags and action were entertaining by and of itself. For the adults, we got to enjoy the fan service, from the main plot line (Charlie Brown's pursuit of the red-headed girl) to various subplots (Snoopy taking on the Red Baron), to passing references (such as the wide shot at a school dance where the kids dance just like they did in the wide dancing shots in A Charlie Brown Christmas).

All of this could have been nostalgia for nostalgia's stake, but the film does a good job of using all of this to support the main conflict of the movie: Charlie Brown's struggle to overcome self-doubt and low self-esteem so he can connect with the read-headed girl. I do think this struggle was softened a bit by the other kids being less hostile to Charlie Brown than in the original material (though there was enough to keep Charlie's doubts realistic, rather than it just being one kid's inability to read a room).

I also thought the ending went a little overboard in wrapping things up. No spoilers, but I do wonder if the ending was created to help the run time (I had a similar feeling about some of the Snoopy-Red Baron story, which really wasn't about the Red Baron and had at least one segment that I thought wasn't necessary). The film clocks in at 1:28, and would probably be more like 1:20 without these scenes.

In any event, I am happy this wasn't the sort of disaster that I thought it might be, and I may even be a little pleased at the potential for a sequel.

There were six trailers before the movie, and that's not including the one for the 25th(!) anniversary re-release of Home Alone. As you might expect for a 10:45 am showing of a G-rated movie, all of the previews were for animated fare:

The Good Dinosaur, from Pixar/Disney, set in a world where dinosaurs are not wiped out in a meteor strike. A young apatosaurus is separated from his family, and he struggles to find them again with the help of a young boy named Spot who, as you might guess from the name, acts more like a dog than a human. Seems decent enough, and I would not be shocked if this is the next film we see in the theater as a family.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, why? Are these films doing well on Netflix or something? Anyway, Dave is getting married, and the rodents team up with the fiancee's son to try to stop the wedding. Remember when I was talking about a movie that was trying too hard to be contemporary? This may be the one. I'm pretty sure there's a musical number called "Uptown 'munk" in this thing. Ugh.

Kung Fu Panda 3, in which Po meets his dad and moves to a panda village, which is then threatened by some supernatural force that has destroyed his old village. Po has to teach the other pandas kung fu in order to protect their homes, etc.

The Angry Birds Movie, which is about birds. Who are angry for some reason. And then pigs show up. All in a movie that is a good three years too late to ride the wave of popularity from the game.

The Secret Life of Pets, which is about what your dogs, cats, fish, etc. are up to while you're at work. This was my favorite trailer of the group, which is meaningless given how many trailers make bad movies look good, but let's give hope a chance here.

Norm of the North, which combines some previous animated films in a way it hopes you don't notice. Norm is one of the denizens of the Arctic who notice that people are showing up in increasing numbers, and in some cases staying. Norm, with the help of some tough lemmings (who in no way are meant to remind you of the penguins in Madagascar, I'm sure), goes to the big city to spread the word that the Arctic is in danger and needs saving (which in no way is meant to remind you of the environmental message of Happy Feet, I'm sure). There's also an evil developer who plans on turning the Arctic into some sort of mixed-use nightmare. Which, even with climate change, seems like a bad idea. It's not like it still doesn't get cold up there, and I imagine building on what is becoming semi-permafrost isn't cheap. Anyway, seems like garbage.

Also worth noting that the film was preceded by an Ice Age short starring Skrat, which while not an official trailer for Ice Age: Collision Course may as well be one. It's fine, but doesn't exactly fill me with desire for the feature film.

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