A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002 TV Short)
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Unlike previous Peanuts features, which almost always contained a coherent (although occasionally bad) plot, the only prevailing theme here is that it is Valentine's Day. Actually, it's several Valentine's Days. The time frame jumps around *so* much that we can't keep any supposed story line straight. Early on, we get the impression the special takes place on February 14. Then Lucy announces that Valentine's Day is a week away. Then Charlie Brown tries to work up the courage to give the little red-haired girl a Valentine. Then we learn that V-Day is still a few days away, then Charlie Brown goes to a school dance.
While some of the jokes are funny, the special could hardly be called hysterical, and its choppy style is more dizzying that enjoyable. All in all, "A Charlie Brown Valentine" plays more like a love-themed episode of _The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show_ than a legitimate television special. While such a variety show could get away with some unfunny sketches (_Saturday Night Live_ has been getting away with it for decades), a full-blown special has to pull its weight all the way through. Sadly, this one does not.
If Peanuts is to survive beyond one more TV special, a new compromise must be reached. We must allow the producers the opportunity to forge existing strips into a workable script--one with a story line--and the possibility of adding some new jokes. Otherwise, the next special may be, "It's the Last Hoorah, Charlie Brown."
It is Valentine's Day, a day I always hate living through, and I just finished watching the newest Charlie Brown TV special. It is the first Peanuts television special since 1993, and I was interested to see if it would be any good. The nineties weren't too kind to anyone that liked or used to like Peanuts. The big TV stations started to crack down on its cartoon specials like Peanuts and Garfield, and the success that the sixties, seventies, and eighties brought it were stopped cold, with only the traditional Christmas special being shown (which I don't think is as good as people claim when compared to some of the other specials). The last special for television, `You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown,' was absolutely the most wretched special ever made. The strip itself was also going South. Charles Schultz, I believe, should have quit ten years ago. I would read the strip in the paper and wonder where all the funny stuff went. Now, two years and two days after Schultz's death, a new cartoon is made. I found it odd that they made a Valentine's Day special, since there already was one, a good one, back in 1975. But I decided to watch with an open mind.
But I couldn't believe how bad this turned out to be, and it is with a heavy heart that I type this review. What it all really turns out to be is a whole bunch of short sketches with various members of the Peanuts gang doing different things leading up to Valentine's Day. Scene after scene, joke after joke, flops like a dead fish. You don't have to be a kid to like a Peanuts cartoon, so I don't think I am being unfair calling this horribly unfunny. I did not find any of this amusing. Part of the problem is that there is so much going on at once that you have trouble following it all. Characters are off doing their own thing, and Bill Melendez switches scenes every twenty seconds, and very few of the `subplots' are resolved. The main story involves the tired old plot of Charlie Brown having difficulty asking the Little Red-Haired Girl out. Most of the scenes involve Charlie Brown complaining to himself or Linus how he can't do it, how he is not tough, how she doesn't know he exists, etc. He's doing something different in each segment, so there is no real plot movement and no story structure at all, which completely kills the experience of enjoyment. What was the point of the Marcie and Peppermint Patty segments? Or the Lucy and Schroeder scenes? Or any of the scenes, for that matter? When they finally get to the scene involving the Valentine's Day dance, nothing happens and it is cut off after less than three minutes there. The final scene also doesn't explain itself. I am not sure what it was implying, really, but it looks like a desperate attempt to throw in a happy ending when the script has painted them into a corner Melendez couldn't get out of. There were other aspects I wasn't impressed with, too. The usually reliable Bill Melendez was really sleeping on the job here. There is a scene early on where Charlie Brown and Lucy are sitting and leaning against a tree, but their heads overlap the tree trunk. This might be excusable had the special been funny. The same cannot be said for a goof up at the dance, when you see Franklin in the background, but he has dirt marks all over his head like Pigpen, who makes his own cameo a few moments later. How did that slip by? Worst of all, I think, is the voice cast. It isn't that they were poor choices, though voices in past specials easily top them, it is just that they don't say things right. Many times the cast shouts their lines out when a character should be talking normally; other times a character plainly talks when the animated body movements suggest they should be shouting. And many of the voices are stiff, like the vocal actors didn't even get a practice take.
I was shocked that this was as poor as it was, particularly the lack of structure. If they make another Peanuts special, I sure hope it comes out better than this. I wouldn't call this the worst, as nothing could be worse than the Super Bowl special, but it ranks up there with the worst. Even `Flashbeagle' could be forgiven. This cannot. I would suggest that you skip this one and look for another. There are over thirty Peanuts specials in existence....so why can't the big stations just show some of the old, rare ones again so we can remember what it was like when the Peanuts were terrific? Zantara's score: 2.
There is something hilarious about the pathetic Charlie Brown. Poor Charlie Brown! It's also his essence. It's just simply funny. I like both Marcie and Peppermint Patty in this. They are a favorable duo of mine. Snoopy has a funny bit putting on a red wig but this is all Charlie Brown. He is completely hopeless and completely funny.