Very few people will argue with you if you state that A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the greatest holiday specials of all time. It manages to toe the line of being sweet but not saccharine, sentimental but not overly so, touching on the true meaning of Christmas without being too alienating. (Not to mention that its Vince Guaraldi score is iconic in its own right.) Its Halloween-focused counterpart, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, has also stood the test of time and become a holiday television classic. However, those two famous films do not mark the only times that the sad-sack, self-conscious and shy star of Charles Schultz’s long-running comic strip has come to life onscreen alongside his gang of eccentric friends and his goofy beagle, Snoopy.
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown! is a 1977 feature film that chronicles what happens when Charlie Brown, Lucy van Pelt, Peppermint Patty and company go to the aptly named Camp Remote and enter an epic boat race as two teams divided by gender but united by one goal: defeating a team of victory-obsessed bullies who have their own answer to Snoopy in a hilariously ugly, fang-toothed cat with a spiked collar, named Brutus. The teams face numerous obstacles on their path to victory, mostly in the form of weather disasters and some good old-fashioned cheating by the bullies, and will need to overcome their differences and unite behind a good leader in order to succeed. The main question is: will that leader be Charlie Brown?
As someone whose favorite character in any given production will be the cat if one is present, no matter how evil it is, Brutus was my favorite part of the film; his slapstick attempts at catching and eating the little yellow bird Woodstock made me smile. However, the rest of the it struggles to hold one’s attention and somehow manages to feel much longer than it’s 76 minute running time. When it comes down to it, the antics of Charlie Brown and his gang end up feeling rather tiresome and repetitive when the material does not have the brevity of the comic strip you remember from the Sunday funnies or the nostalgic pull of the aforementioned holiday specials; in fact, the oft-repeated refrain of “Good grief!” and the constant bullying of Charlie Brown by his friends are actually rather annoying.
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown! does have its entertaining moments, almost all involving the non-human characters in the film; it is impossible for Snoopy to not be charming, possibly because he does not talk. But those moments are just that--moments, strung together haphazardly in the hope that the audience’s affection for these classic characters will help them overlook the story’s deficiencies. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
There only special feature on this single-disc release is the film’s trailer.
"Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown!" is on sale February 10, 2015 and is rated G. Animation. Directed by Bill Melendez. Written by Charles Schultz. Starring Bill Melendez, Gail M Davis, Melanie Kohn.