Director: Bill Melendez
Cast: Peter Robbins, Christopher Shen, Sally Dryer, Cathy Steinberg
Screenplay: Charles M. Schultz
25 mins. Not Rated.
Okay, before we get started, I have to take a moment for a classic Kyle rant. Last year, Apple+ acquired the rights to the Peanuts specials and, for the first time in 54 years, the all-important yearly rituals of the Peanuts Holiday specials, like the one we’re talking about today, would not be screened on television. And everyone lost their collective shit (didn’t expect cursing in your Peanuts review, did you?). People went nuts about their precious specials not being freely available to them, and how this was not what Charles M. Schultz, creator of Peanuts, would’ve wanted. Now, apart from the fact that the specials were freely available on Apple+ (due to the agreement made by Apple in licensing the properties, they had to make the specials available for free at certain times on their service), this was another lesson in people being big gigantic babies when things are given to them for free. When I heard that Apple, a notoriously difficult company, was going to have the Peanuts specials, I went out and bought the Peanuts Holiday Special collection on Blu-Ray, and now I’m not worried about find them when I want to watch them. Sure, you can say, “But Kyle! You’re always going on about The Mandalorian and Fright Night Part II not being on home video! Isn’t this the same thing? You hypocrite!” To that, I say, “No, it’s not the same thing.” The Mandalorian, for all my frustrations about a lack of a physical media release, is still available on a service, yes, but I’m also offering to spend money on a physical release, as opposed to complaining that the show should be free for me because…reasons. As far as Fright Night Part II goes, there is no release. There’s no possible way to watch these items. It’s a totally different argument. So shut up and go buy the Peanuts Specials on home video (another good argument for the preservation of physical media) or shut up and download Apple+.
And now, my review of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown…
It’s getting closer and closer to Halloween, and the Peanuts gang is celebrating with ghoulish delight. Linus (Christopher Shen, A Little Game, The Boy Who Stole the Elephant), however, is waiting anxiously to see The Great Pumpkin, hoping that this year will finally be the year he is visited by the legend. Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins, Good Times, TV’s Blondie) is headed to a Halloween party at Violet’s house, with trick-or-treating set to happen, but like everything with Charlie Brown, things don’t exactly go his way.
I’ve been quite vocal about my indifference to the Peanuts Specials, but I have to admit that this particular special has its inherent charms. This is the first animated version of the classic football prank that Lucy plays on Charlie Brown, and it’s a cute little moment. I also found the trick-or-treating scenes to be quite enjoyable (”I got a rock” might be one of the best recurring bits in any comedy). It’s got a nice little run time (anything above the level of being a short film just would be too much schmaltz). For me, though, I’ve always found the ending to be a bit underwhelming, and I’m not alone. Famous author Ray Bradbury and his kids watched the special and were also said to be so disappointed in the finale that his kids kicked the television set and Ray went on to write his own piece of Halloween fiction, ideally fixing his problems with the special.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a cute little that works well enough because of its swiftness and there’s some genuinely enjoyable moments. I just wish the ending were better. It just feels a bit like everything else Charles M. Schultz did with these characters, and it’s missing the soul of Halloween. I feel like you could trade out the Great Pumpkin for Santa, the trick-or-treating with caroling, and the film would all of a sudden be a Christmas special. For me, this special is nice enough, but if I miss it this Halloween season, I won’t be too put out about it.
-Kyle A. Goethe