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'The Peanuts Movie' is nothing short of miraculous
Charlie Brown and Lucy in "The Peanuts Movie." - photo by Jim Bennett
I loved The Peanuts Movie. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Lets get that out of the way right off the bat.

The late Charles M. Schulz, who wrote, drew and lettered every single Peanuts strip, stipulated in his will that no one is allowed to continue his beloved comic strip without him at the helm. So to my children, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang are little more than relics of a bygone era. And while I was very much looking forward to this new movie, I expected it to be little more than nostalgia fodder. I didnt think it possible that these characters could outlive their creator and become relevant to the rising generation.

Yet, here they are. Theyre all decked out in a new visual medium so vivid that, if you wanted to, you could count all the hairs in Snoopys fur. Yet they also somehow look so much like they did when Schulz was drawing them that they manage to be timelessly classic and vibrantly new at the same time. All of the old tropes are there Linus still has his blanket; Lucy still dispenses psychiatric advice with a 5-cent co-pay, and Charlie Brown still cant get a kite in the air to save his life. But this doesnt feel like an oldies act. Theyre all employed in the service of a sweet, gentle, charming story that is engaging and entertaining for longtime fans and Peanuts neophytes alike.

Really, its nothing short of miraculous.

The appeal of Peanuts is a bit surprising, if you think about it. Its not raucously funny; it seldom goes for big belly laughs. Its often ponderous and philosophical, and its more than a little sad. So why the enduring popularity?

I think it works because everyone, at one time or another, has been Charlie Brown.

I know I was. I was always picked last for every sports team. Sometimes the teams even fought over which side had to take me. I cried readily as a little kid, so I was an easy target for a succession of bullies. My young romantic life was dominated by a string of little red-headed girl surrogates that I would admire from afar with no hope of requital. So Charlie Brown was an inspiration to me.

No, thats not quite right. He didnt inspire me in the sense that he spurred me on to great and noble heights. He just reminded me that, when the world was conspiring against me, I wasnt alone. And that was enough.

Charlie Brown became a big part of my life in my adolescence when I was cast as Schroeder in a long-running production of the musical Youre a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I didnt want to be Schroeder. Who would? He seems like an afterthought to me. He was the Sweathog who replaced Barbarino; he was Chuck Cunningham or Pete Best; he was the fourth Ghostbuster. Schroeder was nobodys favorite. He had no funny lines or memorable scenes. He was and is the Aquaman of the Peanuts Superfriends.

But, still, even as Schroeder, the show allowed me to marinate in Schulzs humble and profound fictional universe. It taught me that happiness is finding a pencil and tying your shoe for the very first time. It made me love Peanuts, and it spurred me to mourn when Schulz passed away and Peanuts seemingly passed away with him.

But somehow, it didnt. Peanuts is alive and well, and Im so happy I can hardly stand it. Welcome back, old friend. Hope you stick around for a long time to come.
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