‘Peanuts’: Which Snoopy and Charlie Brown Movie Is the Best?
Snoopy and the Peanuts gang may be most famous for their television specials like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas/Thanksgiving. They made four feature length animated films from 1969 – 1980, five if you count the 2015 The Peanuts Movie. So, which one is the best?
Paramount released the four original movies on Blu-ray on May 18. The Snoopy Collection includes A Boy Named Charlie Brown; Snoopy Come Home; Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown; and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back). Here’s our review of each one, plus The Peanuts Movie.
‘A Boy Named Charlie Brown’ is a sweet start to the Snoopy movie franchise
The first 30 minutes of A Boy Named Charlie Brown is just a series of vignettes, like animated Peanuts comic strips. It’s so quaint to see entire stories about kids looking at clouds, making a kite and playing baseball. It’s sweet to see kids making their own fun, like they used to before technology took over.
The spelling bee plot eventually kicks in. Charlie gets obsessed with proving himself in competition, and this leads to a subplot about Linus losing his blanket. It’s all very effective and keeps in tone with the simple Peanuts aesthetic.
These kids ask for so little it’s almost heartbreaking. A blanket is all it takes to make Linus happy and he loses it. Charlie just wants to fly a kite and it breaks so he makes another one. And, everyone is trying to spoil his fun. Fortunately there is resolution for all, but it’s emotional getting there.
‘Snoopy Come Home’ takes ‘Peanuts’ to the next level
Snoopy Come Home is definitely the superior sequel and it’s where Peanuts movies found their footing. This is the first film that introduces Woodstock, although he’d been in the comic strips.
Snoopy Come Home starts the plot right away. Snoopy goes missing for a day, foreshadowing a longer absence. Charlie Brown resents Snoopy’s independence and he’s not entirely wrong. Charlie has sacrificed for his pet. Snoopy also keeps encountering places that don’t allow dogs, and that pays off in the film’s conclusion.
A girl named Lila sends Snoopy a letter asking him to visit her in the hospital. This raises a lot of question, and Charlie Brown wants to know who Lila is as badly as the audience does. Most of the movie is Snoopy’s journey to see her an how sweet that he goes to all that trouble just to make a little girl happy. They don’t say what she has but it’s something curable. This isn’t a tragedy. And in real life a dog in a hospital would be unsanitary, but we’ll suspend disbelief because it’s so sweet.
‘Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown’ is a Snoopy setback
The third Peanuts movie is the one where they maybe tried too hard and threw too much at it. The whole Peanuts gang goes to camp where they meet a trio of rival bullies. There are some vignettes of camp activities, but it’s mainly about a river race.
That may give Race For Your Life the strongest throughline of all the movies, but it feels the least like Peanuts. Everyone is out of their element, like Family Ties Vacation or The Facts of Life Down Under. Also, there are so many characters now that it feels sporadic. The boys, the girls, Snoopy and Woodstock, and the bullies all get their own separate subplots and it’s a bit too much.
‘Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown’ is a return to form
In the final Peanuts movie, Charlie Brown and Linus get to participate in a foreign exchange student program. Of course, Snoopy and Woodstock go too, but they seem to be on their own.
Even though this also takes the Peanuts gang out of their element, the plot feels more like Charlie Brown. He gets an invitation from a secret admirer which throws him for a loop. Yet, when they get to her chateau, Charlie ends up sleeping outside but he’s still so happy to be invited somewhere it’s endearing.
Bon Voyage also shows various members of the Peanuts gang on separate European adventures, but it works more like vignettes than Race did. Perhaps die hard campers feel Race got their world right, but Bon Voyage seems to apply Snoopy and Charlie Brown to a new setting more organically.
‘The Peanuts Movie’ is a modern animated movie
Several generations grew up and had kids of their own between Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown and The Peanuts Movie. The modern film serves as a reintroduction of the characters in a contemporary 3D animation style.
The Peanuts Movie also focuses on Charlie Brown’s crush on the Little Red Haired Girl, who is absent from the four original movies, come to think of it. It also realizes Snoopy and Woodstock’s battle against the Red Baron in 3D. Snoopy’s Red Baron exploits were part of A Boy Named Charlie Brown but not any of the other films.
The Peanuts Movie captured the simple tone of the original animated films and specials despite all the newfangled technology. It was still about kids playing and being in school, so it harkened back to A Boy Named Charlie Brown in that way. You can’t top the originals but it was a solid new beginning.
- Snoopy Come Home
- A Boy Named Charlie Brown
- Bon Voyage Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back)
- The Peanuts Movie
- Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown