Horror of horrors! In 2020, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is no longer available on regular TV! Considering the general craziness of 2020, this is just adding insult to injury. It’s a crime! Well, I’m here to help solve your upcoming Charlie Brown needs:
Buy “A Charlie Brown Christmas” DVD here:
And watch “The Peanuts Movie.”
You know how it’s always slightly disappointing, at the end of a biopic, when they show the photo of the real person the movie is about? How they’re never quite as dashing as the actors who portray them? “The Peanuts Movie” has the opposite effect.
When the credits roll, and they show the original black-and-white Charles M. Schulz illustrations of the 1970s Peanuts gang, the nostalgic rush of seeing the “real” Snoopy, Linus, Charlie Brown, and Lucy creates a curiously powerful wistfulness.
One is immediately struck by the genius of Schulz: The man could draw pen-and-ink like nobody’s business. With the pen-ultimate (no pen, er, pun intended) sparsity of lyrical line, Schulz portrayed as wide a range of human emotion as Rembrandt, imbuing these essentially stick figures with personalities arguably more realized and powerful than any cartoon before or since.
At the height of its popularity, “Peanuts” had 355 million readers, in 75 countries, in 21 languages. With 17,897 strips, it’s considered the longest story ever told by one person.
These scratch marks on white paper are truly old friends. For those who weren’t there during the gang’s heyday, the “Peanuts” characters were American cartoon rockstars on par with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keef Richards, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Page.
‘The Peanuts Movie’
So how’s this little movie, you’re wanting to know? Well, you know how anything, no matter how dumb or silly, if it got hung on the Christmas tree when you were 7, by the time you’re 20—it’s attained magical status and become the living myth and legend of your life?
The same goes for “Peanuts.” Those little sketches are sacred. They should really not be “upgraded,” digitally enhanced, CGI’d, and 3D’d! But they have been. So what’s the result? Well, I suppose … it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s … pretty good. For 5-year-olds, it’s very wonderful!
It’s a cozy, wee movie, and while it may not grab the attention of you, the adult, the way it does your 5-year-old, it’s guaranteed you’ll feel a cozy nostalgia, remembering the way America used to look not that long ago in the days when neighborhoods, like Dr. Seuss’s Who-ville, had twinkly lights, smoking chimneys, and unlocked doors. When there were Schwinn banana bikes, Big Wheels, and pogo sticks parked in driveways; ice skating on the local pond, paper routes, yellow school buses—and parental voices sounding like muted trombones. I do believe a certain beleaguered president has always referred to the above description with his campaign slogan and hat.
What kind of a plot are we talkin’ here? Well, that little red-haired girl, she moves across the street from Charlie Brown. So it’s a romance! Charlie Brown is legendarily twitterpated about the little red-haired girl. He must know her! He shows us the tongue-tiedness that must be overcome to meet the woman of your dreams.
To borrow a line from the movie “The Tao of Steve,” Charlie Brown must win her approval by “Doing a great thing in her presence.” He learns to dance! Yay! But he slips on a puddle of spilled punch at the dance! Booo! He gets a perfect score on a test! Yay! She loves that. But, uh-oh—it’s Peppermint Patty’s test, by mistake attributed to Charlie Brown! Booo!
But does Chuck lie about it? He does not. Charlie Brown is a good man. He telleth the truth, he suffereth the terrible, unholy child-shaming that nobody but a bunch of fellow neighborhood classmates, ganging up on a bad day, can administer more thoroughly. This courage does not go unnoticed.
Baron von Richthofen
Meanwhile, that incorrigible, creative, thoroughly self-involved beagle of his is riding around the sky in his Sopwith-Camel-which-looks-a-lot-like-a-doghouse. (A Sopwith Camel is a WWI fighter plane.)
Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s pet dog, is the Walter Mitty of small canines, and he chases that dastardly fighter pilot, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen—the notorious Red Baron—as in the days of yore, when the comic strip was de rigueur school bus reading for middle schoolers.
Snoopy does rather too much of this. I would like to have seen more of Snoopy’s philosophical musings while lying atop the doghouse—such as the realization that when woken from sleep to a refilled dog food bowl, he finds that his head is awake but his stomach is asleep. Whereas later, in the middle of the night with an empty bowl, he finds his head is asleep but his stomach is awake. This is profound stuff, man … kids need to know this stuff.
Getting the Girl
We get to see that Charlie Brown is like all of us: a little bit genius when he really applies himself. (He reads “Leo Toy-store’s” entire book, “War and Peace” in one day.)
In the end, even though his lack of self-confidence succeeds so often in making him the goat (that’s not today’s meaning of G.O.A.T.—”Greatest Of All Time”) instead of the hero, the little red-haired girl explains something to one and all: She has recognized that Charlie Brown, in his trying, did kind, compassionate, wise, truthful, and tolerant things. This is pure gold for children.
‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
Don’t just buy or rent this movie—buy your kids the complete works of Charles M. Schulz for Christmas. Children must be initiated into the world and stories of the Great Pumpkin, kite-eating trees, 5¢ psychiatry, the saga of Linus’s blanket, the incredible angst of having to learn Bible passages by heart for the Christmas pageant, the secret of the dust magnet that is Pig-Pen, what “Ha-Ha Herman” was, what was up with Frieda’s flaccid cat, how Violet and Patty were the original mean girls, and much, much more. Charlie Brown books should come right after Grimm’s fairy tales.
Just like Richard Dreyfus’s character says at the end of “Stand By Me“: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12.” Well lemme tell ya: I never really had any side-splitting, stomach-aching, teary-eyed, can’t-breathe, runny-nosed, rolling-on-the-ground laugh sessions like the ones I had in 6th grade, recounting and reenacting the adventures of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang with friends and classmates during recess.
Oh! False alarm, folks! It appears that the “A Charlie Brown Christmas”-deprived masses raised a hue and a cry, and it shall therefore air on Dec. 13, 2020, on PBS, after all. Smiley-face emoticon!
‘The Peanuts Movie’
Director: Steve Martino
Cast: Trombone Shorty, Francesca Capaldi, Alexander Garfin, Noah Johnston, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Noah Schnapp, Venus Schultheis, Mariel Sheets, A.J. Tecce
Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 6, 2015
Rated 3.5 stars out of 5