A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
G"I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"
-- Charlie Brown
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a 1965 animated TV special directed by Bill Melendez and written by Charles Schultz that serves as one of the longest-running television specials in American history. The story starts with Charlie Brown (voiced by Peter Robbins) telling his best friend Linus (voiced by Christopher Shea) about his disdain towards the Christmas season. Even though he understands the idea of getting and giving presents each year, he still says he feels down and depressed come each Christmas. After consulting Linus's sister Lucy (voiced by Tracy Stratford), she offers Charlie Brown the opportunity to direct their Christmas play. When he attempts to do so, however, he has difficulty getting the other kids to listen to him, so Lucy sends him to find a Christmas tree for the play. The one he chooses is the only real tree he can find, but it happens to be a sad little tree that loses pine needles every time he touches it. Obviously incensed at his decision, the other kids get angry, forcing Charlie Brown out of the theater. However, he decides that he is going to make this tree beautiful, despite everything they say.
Now I know that this is by no means a feature-length film (it's run-time currently sits somewhere between twenty-five and thirty-two minutes, depending on which version you're able to find), but I have been known to review short films from time to time (see: The Black Mamba). When special circumstances arise, I will generally review any type of film, and considering this is the holiday season, I figured there was no way I could possibly leave A Charlie Brown Christmas off my review slate. It's such a classic holiday fixture that you'd probably be hard-pressed to find someone who both hadn't seen the special nor even heard of its existence.
As is the case with every Peanuts special, we're getting our same basic slew of characters, and they don't really divert themselves from their normal personalities. Charlie Brown is still the down-on-his-luck leading character with whom every audience can seemingly relate. His buddy Linus represents the child in every adult, especially in this particular special (more on that in a moment). Lucy is still bossy, Schroeder (voiced by Chris Doran) still plays the piano, and Snoopy (voiced by Melendez) still does whatever he wants to do. So in that respect, there's not all that much different from other Peanuts specials.
What sets this one apart is the rather spectacular screenplay we're receiving. The entire storyline revolves around Charlie Brown's negative attitude towards the commercial aspect of Christmas. All throughout the first half of the story, we see him scoffing in disgust whenever a monetary want or desire comes to the surface (i.e., Snoopy's attempt to decorate his doghouse; Sally's fixation on the presents she wants to receive). It seems so ingrained into the culture that Charlie Brown doesn't really know how to handle himself. And so, when he's given the chance to direct the play, he elects to find the true spirit of Christmas and convey that through his performance.
The anti-commercialism message is a good one, and it's probably one that we need to hear, especially in today's economic state here in the United States. As we've seen in some of the other films I've reviewed - most glaringly, 2007's What Would Jesus Buy? - the commercial aspect of the Christmas holiday is starting to overshadow the holiday itself. Because of this, it's nice to see a long-running television special that still reminds its audience of the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.
I'd also like to make a quick mention of this special's soundtrack, which was performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. The soundtrack takes the classic Peanuts music and meshes it with holiday classics, and although we've heard all these songs before, there's something rather perfect about the way the Trio performs them. They fit seamlessly into this film, and the soundtrack easily proves to be one of my personal favorite holiday soundtracks.
All that being said, I honestly think you should take the time to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. I'm sure it'll be playing a few more times before Christmas reaches us, so tune into your local TV stations and find out when it'll be playing near you. It's a holiday classic for the ages, and everyone in the family should give it a watch.