After the disappointing "A Charlie Brown Valentine," the Peanuts gang bounces back with an enjoyable outing on the baseball diamond. We're not talking "Great Pumpkin" here, but "Lucy Must Be Traded" is at least a fun entry in the series, even if it is ultimately a forgettable one.
While it would be hard to call the storyline of "Traded" a bona-fide plot, at least there is a definite time frame and an identifiable conflict--two things "Valentine" lacked. Once again the special has been woven together using existing Peanuts strips, but this time, at least, they all work together to move us progressively through Charlie Brown's baseball season. And we get a few laughs along the way. (As much as I love Peanuts, it has never been as funny as such laugh riots as Garfield and Dilbert, but there is charm in its simple humor, which is what I enjoy most.)
The only real problem with "Traded" is the lack of transition between the segments. Some portions work well. The sections where Charlie Brown trades Snoopy to Peppermint Patty and the title conflict that culminates in Lucy being traded for Marcy flow nicely. But how many times do we have to see Charlie Brown wind up for a pitch only to be interrupted by someone? (It's a good thing this league doesn't call balks!) Yes, that happened a lot in the strip, but that's because Schulz only had a single frame to establish the fact that a baseball game was being played. An animated show has considerably more time. For instance, Sally's comment about the baseball magazine was totally out of place--no matter how it appeared in the strip. Why not have her talking to her brother at home? (Maybe she just wanted to publicly humiliate him, but we never get the impression anyone else heard the conversation.) And wouldn't it have been funny to see Lucy miss a fly ball because she was on her way to the mound to talk to Charlie Brown? But we never see any of that. It's: joke, reset, joke, reset. Even the weakest Peanuts features have had a flow to them.
I admire how true Melendez has been to Schulz's vision; it couldn't have been easy to carry on after his passing. ("Valentine" seems to confirm that.) We're almost back in the groove. "Lucy Must Be Traded" is a worthy entry in the Peanuts franchise. It's certainly better than the two outings that preceded it.
I originally wrote this review before "I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown" premiered. So my thoughts on what "Traded" may indicate for the franchise are no longer applicable, but since "Dog" was possibly even better than "Traded", it is starting to look like the Peanuts specials may truly be returning to form.
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