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Years: 1969, 1972
Genre: Kids, Cartoon, Classic
Country: United States
Starring (voices): Johanna Baer, David Carey, Linda Ercoli, Christopher de Faria, Robin Kohn, Linda Mendelson, Hilary Momberger, Stephen Shea, Chad Webber, Bill Melendez, Peter Robbins, Pamelyn Ferdin, Glenn Gilger, Andy Pforsich, Sally Dryer, Anne Altieri, Guy Pforsich, Erin Sullivan
Director: Bill Melendez
Run time: 166 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang are so familiar to most of us that watching them in an animated movie is not much different than reading the old Charles M. Schultz comic strips. And since all the jokes and scenarios are exactly the same, it actually IS just like that. Charlie Brown is bad at baseball. His team loses all the time, and every pitch he throws comes right back up the middle and knocks all his clothes off. He can’t fly a kite and trees want to eat his kites and his kites attack him and break all the time. He gets psychiatric advice from Lucy at her booth for the low low price of a nickel. Lucy takes the football away when he’s about to kick it. Linus carries a blanket, Schroeder plays piano, Pigpen is messy. You know how it goes.
That familiarity both helps and hurts the first movie on this 2-disc double feature from Paramount Home Entertainment. A Boy Named Charlie Brown is the first Peanuts feature length film, from 1969. The familiarity of the story works well, as does the homey feel generated by the now-classic Vince Guaraldi theme music. Really though, the film is just a series of vignettes – Charlie Brown’s kite, Charlie Brown playing baseball – spread out by some filler animated sequences – Snoopy’s record player playing the Star Spangled Banner, Schroeder playing the Pathetique on his piano – and finally, the actual story, which involves Charlie Brown entering a spelling bee.
Of course, Charlie Brown will fail at the spelling bee, as he does at everything else – that is, after all, the theme of Peanuts. But he DOES place second overall, nationally, in a televised spelling bee. He returns home with the stench of failure all over him, and gets depressed, and hides in bed. Today, a movie that ends like that would be a success story – if any kids in school made fun of the guy who came in second in the country in a spelling bee, he would just say “oh, yeah, I did lose. How…did you do in the nationally televised spelling bee? Oh, you didn’t make it? You weren’t there? I see.” And the movie would be a success story. Not for Charlie Brown though, of course.
The second movie in the set is Snoopy Come Home, a surprisingly – no, staggeringly – sad story about Snoopy running off to find his original owner, a little girl who has been hospitalized for some reason. While the gang pines for Snoopy and worries about where he may be, Snoopy takes Woodstock and his briefcase off on a series of adventures as they try to get to the hospital. They are kidnapped by a creepy little girl, they sink a raft in a river, they camp out in a giant nest and under an overpass. Of course, Snoopy and Woodstock don’t speak, so maybe the most interesting thing about the 1972 film is that it operates almost entirely visually.
For our eleven-year-old, Snoopy Come Home was more interesting. A Boy Named Charlie Brown is a little more inaccessible for the young ones, although of course he is familiar with the comic strips also, so he found it cool that he knew what was coming next. Lucy’s gonna take the football away and Charlie Brown’s gonna get hurt! Just watch! I was amazed that he wanted to watch these old movies, and even more amazed that he enjoyed them. And I also admit that I found a good deal of enjoyment in the set as well.