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You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1985)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 1/26/2010

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/30/2010

For my generation, the Charlie Brown specials hold a very dear place. At Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, it was an annual tradition to clear one's schedule (which wasn't hard, as kids back then didn't have the hectic schedules which plague today's children) and watch the shows. (Until the home video revolution, if you missed the annual airing, you had to wait a year to see it.) The shows were great, as were the Dolly Madison and Cadbury commercials. So, here's a question, when is a Charlie Brown special not a Charlie Brown special? When it's the odd hybrid of stage musical and animated show entitled You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown premiered as an off-Broadway play in 1967. The show was, of course, based on the Peanuts comic strips. A musical, the play featured the well-known characters singing about their daily lives. The show eventually moved to Broadway and has been performed around the world. In 1985, an animated version of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown debuted on TV. At first glance, the show looks like your typical Charlie Brown special, but once quickly realizes that it isn't. We get the requisite characters -- Charlie Brown (voiced by Kevin Brando), Linus (voiced by David Wagner), Sally (voiced by Tiffany Reinbolt), Lucy (voiced by Jessie Lee Smith), Schroeder (voiced by Jeremy Scott Reinbolt) and Snoopy (voiced by Robert Towers) (Yes, you read that correctly -- we'll get back to that in a moment.) Instead of having a traditional narrative, the show features vignettes which explore the regular facets of the character's lives. We see Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, the kids playing baseball, the kids working on a book report for school, Charlie Brown pining over the red-haired girl, and Snoopy wondering when he's going to be fed. There are short bits of dialogue between the songs, but most of the show is filled with the musical numbers.

When I write a review, I try to answer a question for you: Will you like the movie/show in question? With You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown that is a tough question to answer. But you're thinking, "I like Charlie Brown specials, why wouldn't I like this one?" Well, because it's not like any of the other specials. Again this is based on the musical stage production (actually, as pointed out in the featurette on the DVD this is an animated show based on a stage show which is based on an assortment of songs which is based on a comic strip -- talk about the law of diminishing returns!) and if you know anything about musicals, they don't always have a ton of story. That is certainly the case with You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Again, the show is simply a series of segments which illustrate the lives of the characters. The only theme here is that Charlie Brown is a loser (wow, that's news!). So, if you are looking for any sort of narrative, you will be disappointed.

Now, if you like musicals, then you may like You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. The structure follows classic musical theater structure and the songs are used to tell the story. As for the songs, I wasn't very impressed with them. They all sounded like standard Broadway musical songs and only the finale sounded familiar. Some of the songs, such as the one which plays during the book report segment, go on far too long.

And then we have the biggest problem with You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown -- Snoopy talks. Peanuts has always had a special brand of anthropomorphism; Snoopy can walk upright and has many mannerism of a human (kissing Lucy, imagining himself in World War II, cooking a mean Thanksgiving feast, etc.), but he's never spoken. In this show, we can only hear Snoopy's thoughts, but that's bad enough. First of all, that's just wrong. We don't need to hear what Snoopy is thinking, it should come through in his actions. Secondly, if Snoopy does have to talk, his voice should sound like Robert Towers. It just doesn't fit Snoopy...at all.

My dislike for You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown may be party my fault. I got this special and A Boy Name Charlie Brown confused. As far as I can tell, I'd never seen You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown before, because if I had, I would have known to not watch it again. Fans of the stage musical may be interested in checking this one out, but lovers of traditional Charlie Brown shows will be disappointed. (And, for the record, my kids, who love Peanuts, gave up after about 10 minutes.)

You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown has a...did I mention that Snoopy talks!...on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The show is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain. Unlike some of the older Charlie Brown specials, there are very few defects from the source material here. The colors look good and the digital transfer doesn't reveal any major flaws in the animation. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital mono audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The songs sound fine and they are never louder or quieter than the dialogue.

The You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown DVD contains only one extra feature. "Animating a Charlie Brown Musical" (15 minutes) gives a broad overview of the show. Through comments from speakers such as Charles Schulz's wife and the actor who originated the role of Charlie Brown in the stage show, we learn some details about the musical which was based on the popular comic strip. We learn that a series of songs based on the Peanuts characters were recorded, and this was then transitioned into a play. However, this piece is very vague. There's no footage of the musical being performed on stage, nor is there a definitive story of how the show got off the ground. (It's implied that it was all out of Schulz's hands.) We also aren't told why anyone thought that it would be a good idea to do an animated version.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long