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Our review of A Charlie Brown Valentine, published February 25th, 2004, is also available.
"Yes Ma'am, I'd like to buy a box of candy for a girl who doesn't know I exist."
First aired in 2002, A Charlie Brown Valentine had a lot to prove, being as it is the first Charlie Brown special produced following the death of creator Charles M. Schulz. Thankfully, and full credit to all involved here, A Charlie Brown Valentine can sit quite comfortably next to any of the classic Peanuts specials.
Although A Charlie Brown Valentine never really comes together as one cohesive whole—which isn't surprising considering it is based on numerous individual comic strips—there's never the feeling that this is some cheap knockoff. With the benefit of so many great Schulz strips to choose from, the team of Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson craft not only a cracking cartoon, but also a worthy tribute to Schulz.
Charlie Brown, as ever, proves to be an endearingly sweet creation. Desperately longing to receive his first valentine, Charlie Brown maintains an upbeat outlook on life, even when the object of his affection—the little red head girl—continually rebuffs his advances. As always Snoopy is never too far from Charlie's side, and, during the prologue, is given his time to shine. Sitting atop his doghouse, Snoopy taps out a series of sonnets on his typewriter for Lucy and Sally. Finding his work meeting with disapproval, Snoopy hastily rewrites with some genuinely hilarious results. As the special continues to play out, each of the Peanuts gang get their time to shine, which includes a brilliantly written exchange between Linus and the little red head girl that leaves poor Charlie Brown humiliated and heartbroken.
Such is the quality of the writing, that if it were not for the use of digital inks—rather than traditional cell animation—you'd be hard pressed to tell this special isn't from the golden age of the late sixties to mid-seventies, that undoubtedly saw the finest Charlie Brown specials produced.
Unfortunately it's not all good news. While I've no hesitation in praising A Charlie Brown Valentine, I've some reservations about recommending this particular release. Unlike the 2004 DVD release of A Charlie Brown Valentine, this reissue only includes one bonus episode, rather than the two featured previously. For what it's worth, Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown, which originally aired in 1981, is a fantastic episode; it just doesn't warrant a purchase while the superior 2004 release (which also featured 1973's There's No Time For Love, Charlie Brown) can still be picked up quite cheaply online.
Visually, A Charlie Brown Valentine looks excellent on DVD. The full frame transfer is rich with bright colors, and is sharp throughout. In contrast, Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown shows signs of its age, with colors often less than vibrant. The transfer also contains a small amount of grain, and occasional instances of what appears to be damage to the print. Likewise, the quality of audio is quite discernible between the two features. Both presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown is a little flat, and lacks the vibrancy of A Charlie Brown Valentine.
With a combined running time of only 50 minutes, A Charlie Brown Valentine just doesn't offer real value for money. As much as I loved the two specials included on the disc, and as much as it pains me to say it, I can't bring myself to recommend this disc to anyone but the most die-hard Peanuts fans.
For fans only.
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