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Paramount Home Video presents
"You've got a used dog, Charlie Brown."
DVD ReviewThe loss of a beloved pet is often a child's first brush with tragedy (unless, of course, Grandma was also "driven out to a nice farm where she'd have lots of room to play and run free"), and Snoopy, Come Home, the second theatrical feature based on Charles M. Schulz's comic strip and the Peanuts TV specials, plays on those fears, albeit in far less traumatizing fashion.
Charlie Brown feels like Snoopy doesn't appreciate him (despite daily breakfasts of toast and jelly), but he regrets yelling at the dog when Snoopy receives a letter from the mysterious Lila and up and leaves. It seems Snoopy isn't Charlie Brown's original owner, and now the beagle feels he is needed elsewhere—Lila is in the hospital. While Chuck battles an emotional crisis at home, Snoopy, with yellow bird buddy Woodstock in tow, ventures off to visit his once (and future?) master. Cue the entire Peanuts gang (including Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Sally, Marcie, and Peppermint Patty): "Snoopy, come home!"
Losing a pet is traumatic, but Snoopy, Come Home is not. A lot of the fun comes from watching Snoopy and Woodstock on the road. They don't make the best traveling buddies—Snoopy gets exasperated while waiting for the tiny bird to slowly creep over a grate in the sidewalk; later, the bird builds a small raft that the dog promptly hops onto and sinks. Later, they perform some interpretive jazz, and Snoopy is probably the only dog who runs away from home and thinks to bring a jew's-harp. The same dynamic was expanded later in Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, and these moments of dialogue-free visual humor are very much in keeping with Schulz's comic strips (I'm glad he made the decision to keep Snoopy silent onscreen). Midway through their trip, Snoopy is spotted and captured by a sadistically sweet little girl who loves to give him baths and dress him up for tea parties. Snoopy doesn't like this at all, and, with Woodstock's help, must figure out a way to escape. I would have bitten her so hard.
The movie is full of melancholy Peanuts humor, which will rarely make you laugh but is wiser than most anything you'll read in the funny pages. When Charlie Brown needs some cheering up, he asks security blanket-toting Linus for an encouraging word. Linus replies, "Happiness lies in our destiny like the cloudless sky between the storms of tomorrow that destroy the dreams of yesterday and last week." Charlie Brown: "I think that blanket is doing something to you."
The animation is low budget and limited, but it has a lot of character. There isn't as much late-'60s psychedelia on display as in A Boy Named Charlie Brown (featuring Snoopy's acid trip on ice), but there's a little, a color and light show during Snoopy's trek through the wilderness. Bill Melendez, who has directed pretty much every piece of Peanuts animation and even "voices" Snoopy, keeps the pace leisurely, allowing for more character humor than in your average, manic cartoon. The bouncy song score by Richard and Robert Sherman will stick in your head for several decades ("No dogs allowed! You're not a crowd! No dogs allowed!").
This is a children's movie, but I suspect its most ardent fans are adults who grew up watching the Peanuts films. Are they still as popular with kids? Can Charlie Brown survive in an era of Pokémon and shows about spinning tops that battle? Well, he faced down G.I. Joe, so I don't think Pikachu will cause much of a problem. Though he is sort of football shaped...
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Well, I'm confused. All my life, I've watched the Peanuts films on VHS in full frame. They played in theaters, but Peanuts specials were typically made for television, so there was always some question on the original aspect ratio. Paramount's decision to release this film and A Boy Named Charlie Brown in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen seemed to settle the issue, except, for some reason, the opening and closing credits are still presented in full frame, window-boxed within the anamorphic image.
So, basically, who knows? From what I can tell, the framing on the widescreen version looks correct; I never noticed any awkward compositions, tops of heads chopped off, that kind of thing. My best guess is, the movies were framed for theaters but animated full frame, and the part of the image "missing" on these releases is simply the top and bottom of the background cels (as in, static paintings, not actual animation). If that's the case, I applaud Paramount—almost any other studio would have just put them out in full frame.
But on to the image review: Snoopy, Come Home looks its age, but it also looks a lot better than I've ever seen before. The colors are fairly solid and the image detail is pretty good—black outlines stand out well and don't suffer from obvious edge enhancement. The source materials look a little dingy, with marks and dirt appearing often, but some of that might be native to the rather low-budget animation as well. All in all, far from Disney quality, but still nice for anyone who is used to watching this on old videotapes.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a simple stereo mix that presents songs and dialogue clearly. There isn't a lot of stereo separation of anything, but it's fine.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: This DVD is bare even by the standards of a Paramount catalog title. Basically, there are... chapter stops. Because this is from CBS DVD, and not parent company Paramount Home Video, there aren't even any English subtitles. Dogs can't read? And while I'm complaining, whoever drew the cover got Snoopy and Woodstock's mouths totally wrong, and they just look weird.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsI realize the Peanuts movies are sentimental favorites and will probably seem a little dull and slow-paced to today's kids, but they have the same enduring charm as the rest of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz's creations, and Snoopy, Come Home is one of the better ones. Hopefully, we'll see the remaining features, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown and Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, on DVD before too long. Happiness is a warm puppy... on DVD.
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