Who doesn’t like Peanuts on some level? I know I’ve read quite a few of the strips myself. On top of that, I do watch A Charlie Brown Christmas most every year. Any year that I participate in the October Horror Movie Challenge, I watch Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. In this Peanuts feature, we get to spend a lot of time with the main character in A Boy Named Charlie Brown.
The Film: 3/5
The movie starts out with Charlie Brown being disappointed with life. Shocking, huh? The poor guy starts the movie out by losing at baseball like he does at everything else. In fact, he loses so bad that his pitches get hit right back in his face so hard that he loses his shirt and shoes. As a result, Charlie believes he will never win at anything. Now, Linus predictably doesn’t like this attitude and disagrees with him. Others are well… less supportive. Lucy obviously is the worst at mocking his failures, but he also receives derision from Patty or Violet.
Due to Linus’s prodding, Charlie enters the school spelling bee. In a surprising turn of events for the perpetual failure, he wins. Charlie seems to display a penchant for spelling depressing and insulting words that he feels he embodies. After this, Charlie is decidedly upbeat, so things have to change to set things right. As the school’s winner, he must go to New York and compete in the National Spelling Bee (which oddly enough seems to only have about 10 kids in it). This sounds like quite the daunting assignment for our hero. Once Charlie is told this, he returns to being full of self-doubt just like the Charlie Brown we know and love. Despite this, Charlie pushes on and we follow his journey to New York for the spelling bee and back.
A Boy Named Charlie Brown is the first full-length feature Peanuts movie. This is also the only feature film with Peter Robbins voicing Charlie Brown. I only mention it because he voiced Charlie Brown in the preceding TV specials that I know and love. So, Peter’s voice is what I think of when I think of good ole Chuck.
I’ll be upfront about this: I didn’t love this Peanuts feature. I have some vague recollection of the events of this movie, so I’ve seen it before. Obviously, it didn’t stick with me quite like the TV specials did. It isn’t that this wasn’t enjoyable by any stretch. I think it suffers from the runtime.
A Boy Named Charlie Brown is probably most entertaining during the early short 10-15 minute scenes that lead into the main story. Still, it doesn’t have quite the same charm that the classic TV specials had. The story is told sufficiently, though. It effectively delivers the core message of you don’t have to win at something to have worth. We learn with Charlie Brown that failures aren’t the end of the world. For this, we do love Charlie Brown, but this just isn’t a feature that demands repeat viewings like some of the TV specials.
Picture Quality: 3/5
The image is nothing to write home about here. Let’s be fair to the transfer though. The film is nearly fifty years old and the elements probably haven’t been preserved perfectly. The elements may not have even been great to begin with. The full frame presentation is listed on IMDb as one of the two aspect ratios, so I’m not sure if this is the intended presentation or if the widescreen is. On the positive side, despite the pops and impurities in the transfer, the colors look pretty true. The scenes that aren’t on flat colored backgrounds do have good colors and clarity in the animation.
Audio Quality: 3/5
A Boy Named Charlie Brown features a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. It is nice that despite the limitations of the source, they included a track this high quality. The track has limited surround sound activity, but has good clarity. I was pleased with the way the dialog and music sounded throughout the movie. It won’t fill out your surround system, but who is really expecting a huge surround sound punch from a Snoopy film as if it were a Michael Bay production anyway?
Special Features and Packaging: 1/5
There are no special features included with this release. That is annoying. At least something on Peanuts here. Anything really. But hey, it comes with a slip. One with pretty much the same art as the cover art. I guess that is worth something, so yay.
A Boy Named Charlie Brown is fine, but nothing truly special. I think the Peanuts world works better in a smaller runtime. The technical merits are fine, but nothing to write home about. The extras are sadly nonexistent. I honestly don’t even like the way the case feels. A lot about this feels like a cheap and lazy release. I think they probably should have just put a set out of all the classic feature films for $30. I recommend this for fans, but not for the approximately $15 it is going for on Amazon. Pick it up when it drops below $10.
Note: This Blu Ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.