Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Snoopy Come Home Adoption Movie Review

Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus and the gang take an unexpected look at the conflict in loyalty an adoptee may feel between their first and second families, and the grief that each family may feel at the thought of losing the love of one they care about. In the 1972 feature-length film Snoopy, Come Home!, Charlie Brown’s beloved beagle has received a letter from his former owner, Lila. Lila tells Snoopy that she is sick and has been hospitalized for weeks, and she asks Snoopy to come see her. Without explaining himself (he’s a dog and can’t talk…) Snoopy leaves his neighborhood and begins his long journey to Lila. Lila is overjoyed to see Snoopy, and he is very glad to see her. Lila ultimately asks Snoopy to move to live with her again, permanently, and this request causes Snoopy great grief. He wants to be with both Lila and Charlie Brown.

How is this Relevant to Adoption?

There is a surprising amount of powerful grief emotions captured in Snoopy, Come Home! Lila’s theme mourns her loss of Snoopy, “Don’t you remember me? Once I called you my own. Now I’m sad as can be.” Another song asks, “Why can’t we get all the people in the world we really like and just stay together forever? Someone always leaves. I hate goodbyes.” When Snoopy initially leaves, his friends and his family are confused, hurt, and sad. Several of his friends gather and each wonder if some unkindness they have on their conscience may have been responsible for Snoopy leaving. Later, when Snoopy decides to live with Lila he writes more-or-less of a will, leaving his belongings to his old friends, and his friends send him off with a very tearful farewell. When Snoopy finds that he doesn’t ultimately have to choose which family to live with, his relief is immense.

It’s also insightful to watch Charlie Brown’s friends try to help him make sense of Snoopy’s departure. One sits with him trying to figure out what went wrong. Another suggests that Charlie Brown should just get another dog.

Snoopy also has a brief experience that might be reminisicnt of foster care to some kids; he is unexpectedly taken into a new home where he a girl name Clara takes charge of him. He is called a new name and subjected to different rules. Clara is loving, but Snoopy doesn’t feel comfortable there, and he leaves as quickly as he can.

Linus accesses Snoopy’s birth records (more or less) to find out that Snoopy had had a previous family.
Of course, the film is about pet ownership rather than adoption, and the situation is resolved in an unnaturally simple way (Snoopy is torn between both families; he chooses to live with Lila, but in the last five minutes of the movie is relieved to find that her building does not allow dogs rendering him free of the responsibility to choose) but the emotions expressed by Snoopy, his friends, and both of his families seem likely to translate directly into adoption.

Strong Points
It is very apparent that Snoopy is loved and appreciated by both of his families.
When Lila asks Snoopy to live with her forever, it comes from a place of love and she affirms that the choice is ultimately Snoopy’s. No one tries to use guilt to force Snoopy into a decision.


The grief emotions in this film are real but are so strong that they might blindside the young children who would probably be drawn to a Peanuts film. The fact that Snoopy has to deal with these strong emotions without being able to speak also reminds me of the conflict that some young (and even some older) children might feel when they’re not yet able to verbalize the complex and powerful and painful emotions that they feel. Although Snoopy is free to choose where to live, he does not have anyone to help him process his decision.

Although Charlie Brown’s friends all try to find their share of the guilt of Snoopy’s departure, the truth is that his leaving had nothing to do with any of them; it was to meet a need, not to punish anyone. This film reminds me, in multiple ways, about the importance of communication.

There are some powerful statements in the film. Linus hypothesizes to Charlie Brown about Snoopy’s absence, “He had tried to forget Lila, but when he heard she was in the hospital he went to see her.” Charlie Brown responds, “I bet he wishes he was still her dog.”

Weak Points

Clara spanks snoopy when she believes he has misbehaved. It seems unexpected, undeserved, and violent.

No one ever suggests that Snoopy can be connected to both Charlie Brown and Lila; he is forced to choose between the two.

One of Charlie Brown’s friends covers her pain with anger, and tells Charlie Brown to “disown that ungrateful dog.” This reminds me of the unhealthy anger or suspicion that some folks feel when adoptees seek out their birth families. I’m grateful that Charlie Brown doesn’t go along with Lucy’s advice.
Linus refers to Snoopy as a “used dog” because he had previously been with another family.
In this film, “goodbyes” are portrayed as forever.


Snoopy, Come Home! has different pacing than most modern kids’ movies. It’s a slow film that stretches a 20- or 30-minute story into an 80-minute film, largely through extended song and dance sequences. I imagine that it will probably bore most children over the age of 8. However, the emotional scenes in the film might be too powerful for the young children likely to be watching it. This film has the potential to open up some serious and powerful discussions, but there might be a mismatch between the level of emotion and content of discussion as opposed to the targeted age group for the film. I’d advise parents to watch the film before showing it to their kids (and I’d caution parents that the film will feel pretty boring most of the time.)

I can also see this film being very painful for first families. Goodbyes in this film seem to be forever, and grief is strong.

Questions for Discussion after the film

Why did Snoopy leave?

Why were his friends so sad?

If Snoopy could have talked (or written a letter), would his choice have been easier or harder?
Why might someone want to live with more than one family?

Do goodbyes always have to be forever?

If you could make life exactly the way you wanted, what would it look like?

Why was Snoopy so happy when Lila’s apartment had a sign up that said “no dogs allowed?”

Do you ever feel like someone wants you to feel a certain way?

Snoopy had very mixed feelings about where to live. Have your feelings ever felt very mixed?


Affirm that it’s OK for a child to love – and want relationship with – more than one family.

Encourage kids to know that it’s OK to feel however they feel, and it’s OK and safe for them to talk to you about whatever their feelings are – you won’t judge them or be hurt or mad.

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