Paramount Home Video presents
A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)
"I think it would be kind of fun to win once in a while."- Charlie BrownDirector: Bill Melendez
MPAA Rating: GRun Time: 01h:25m:49s
Release Date: 2006-03-28
DVD ReviewMaking the leap from four panels six days a week (plus color on Sundays) to feature film has got to be a perilous one, especially if your leading characteristic is a world-renowned capacity for, despite your dogged tenacity, failing to come through in the clutch. But good old Charlie Brown does just fine in this, his first feature film, made just three years after his first television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, by the same team of animators and writers. Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz was surely the guiding force here—he's credited with the screenplay, and director Bill Melendez and his creative team found a visual style with its roots in Schulz's newspaper work, but one that doesn't seem hampered by the necessary brevity of a cartoon strip.
Athletics never seemed to be quite Charlie Brown's thing—he gets lit up like a Mets middle reliever whenever he takes the mound, and his holder, Lucy, ensures that his placekicking efforts are as notorious as Scott Norwood's wide right. And given the frequent embarrassments he faces in the classroom (I think that's what they are; I don't speak French horn), you'd never suspect that Charlie Brown would be a MENSA candidate. But you know what? The young fellow can spell, and he wins the school bee, and along with it a trip to New York City to compete in the national contest. That's the main narrative thread of the piece, and in our time, Charlie Brown would be one of those kids sweating it or passing out during ESPN coverage—what's heartening is to see him gaining confidence, to have found an arena in which he can succeed, to have a chance to prove Lucy and the rest of the gang wrong. But win or lose, you're a good man, Charlie Brown, and we're pulling for you, even if we've got a nauseated sense of what the outcome is likely to be.
Melendez and Schulz also give the other familiar characters their due, and the animation is reasonably ambitious, especially compared to the straightforward work on the television specials. There's quite a bit of boys fending off girls' advances and tending to their own dreams—Schroeder's fantasia on Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata is especially winning, with Ludwig Von's forbidding countenance presiding over the young pianist's dreams of being the next Glenn Gould. Even more endearing is Linus—he's not really up for going out to the movies with Sally Brown, despite what she thinks, and as a good friend makes the unwise decision to offer his precious blanket to Charlie Brown, to take to the spelling bee, for good luck. It provokes a crippling anxiety attack in young Linus, who goes on an epic quest to get back his blanket—their dance of joy when reunited, boy and blanket, is as endearing as any steps that Fred and Ginger ever took.
And how could we forget our faithful four-legged friend, Snoopy? He gets a few of his own arias here—fighting the evil Red Baron, for one, and then getting his Brian Boitano on at the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink. He really is a snarky little pup, but when Charlie Brown needs him, he comes through, as truly a boy's best friend. Vince Guaraldi's indispensable music is on hand, supplemented by a few songs written by Rod McKuen. It's a thoroughly winning effort all around.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: This really is a dingy piece of work, visually—the animated Peanuts never glistened, but this disc looks especially poor, crammed with dirt, discolorations and rips. Perhaps Pig Pen supervised the transfer? It sure looks that way.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The sound has fared much better than the picture, though it seems like an unwise utilization of resources—Charlie Brown and friends would have been better served by a cleanup job on the print than by creating a 5.1 track, which seems like overkill.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Nothing but chapter stops, suggesting that this was a real dump job. It shows.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsYou're a leading man, Charlie Brown—the Peanuts' first foray into feature films remains a charmer, and is sure to please the young folk seeing it for the first time, and old people (like me) who recall it from childhood.
Jon Danziger 2006-04-03