In 10 Words or Less
An update on a classic, and one from the archives
Loves: Animation, the old Peanuts holidays specials
Dislikes: Charlie Brown
Hates: Lucy van Pelt
It's unlikely you could find a bigger loser in children's entertainment than Charlie Brown. Even Eeyore looks at him and shakes his head in disgust. Part of the problem is the way he oozes negativity, which makes his failures a self-fulfilling prophecy, The other part is the odd group he runs with including an pair of masculine girls with a strange master-submissive relationship, a kid with security issues and a girl who abuses him at every turn, npot to mention his dog Snoopy, who has plenty of self-confidence problems himself. And yet, despite these quirks (or perhaps because of them) Peanuts remains a rather beloved part of Americana, mainly on the strength of the tradition of the franchise's holiday specials, which manage to walk a tightline between mawkish and heartfelt.
The series' best days may be in the past, but it continues to tell new stories, as seen in this DVD's 2003 special "Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown." As usual, Mr. Brown is a failure, this time on the baseball field, where his team is a miserable mess, but no one is worse than his right fielder, Lucy. And to make matters worse, Charlie can't get his point across to her that no one wants her around. So since he can't get rid of her, he tries the next best thing, trading his dog to Peppermint Patty's team. The story plays out through a series of gags, as Lucy continuously frustrates Charlie Brown (and everyone else for that matter.) While it can be funny to see CB get his clothes knocked off by a line drive, the special goes to the well too often, and runs out of gas early on.
The disc's sports theme continues in The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, an early-'80s Saturday-morning cartoon, represented here by episode number 15. It starts with "The Pelicans," which sees Peppermint Patty ask Charlie Brown to help out with her baseball team, but not in the way he hopes. As one can expect from a born loser, he manages to screw up even the simplest task, driving Patty nuts. If anything proves how rote the series is, it's seeing the shared jokes in two episodes made approximately 20 years apart.
Unlike so many kids cartoon DVDs, this one makes a genuine attempt to stick to the theme, as the episode continues in "Great Pumpkin," which revisits the theme of Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch on Halloween to catch a glimpse of the Great Pumpkin. This time however, it's mixed with some bowling, as CB and Peppermint Patty take to the lanes to knock over some pins. Shorter than the main episode, this one doesn't have a lot to it, basically spending the whole time setting up a final gag. The episode wraps with another quick short, this time introducing Snoopy's cousin Spike, who's visiting from the desert. Looking gaunt, he's cared for by Lucy, to her brother Linus' chagrin. Spike was never than interesting in the comic strip, and there's no difference here.
The shows arrive on a single DVD, in a standard keepcase. The disc has a static, anamorphic widescreen menu, with options to watch the shows, view trailers and adjust the set-up. Audio options include English, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks, while subtitles are included in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. There's no closed captioning.
Based on a lifetime of experience watching Peanuts on TV, these shows look great. Of course, the newer 2003 special looks better, with some of the crispest depictions of the characters ever, thanks to bold, deep color and an extremely clean full-frame image that really shows off the textures in the background. The '80s version looks pretty sweet as well, just not as crystal clear, and marred a bit by some shaking in the presentation and ever-present specks of dirt. It's not perfect, but it's better than you might expect. In both cases though, there are no obvious issues with digital distractions.
The sound doesn't differ that much between the early 1980s and 2003, as Peanuts has never been a slam-bang audio affair, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks sound good, if simplistic, delivering the sound right down the middle. The classic Peanuts music has good separation from the voices, and there's no distortion present.
The only extra included has nothing to do with the main feature, as all you get are a couple of trailers.
The Bottom Line
This isn't the most expensive DVD of cartoons out there, but you'd hope to get a bit more than 48 minutes of animation for your money.On top of that, despite a bit of updating in the main feature, what's here isn't even that entertaining, at least to an adult who's been watching/reading Peanuts cartoons for almost 30 year. The disc looks and sounds pretty nice, but offers no extras, so that's a hard 48 minutes for your hard-earned dollar.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.