Wherever Judge Geoffrey Miller goes, he sees "No Judges Allowed" signs. Like "No Shirts, No Shoes, No Service," it keeps him out of a lot of finer establishments.
Our review of A Boy Named Charlie Brown / Snoopy Come Home, published October 30th, 2011, is also available.
No dogs allowed!
Snoopy, Come Home arrived at a time when Peanuts was in the midst of a transitional period. Previously, Peanuts was primarily about Charlie Brown and his perpetual failings in life; around 1970, beginning with the introduction of Woodstock, Peanuts became increasingly Snoopy-centric. Along with this increased emphasis on the lovable beagle came a gentler, friendlier attitude (and, of course, a metric ton of new marketing tie-ins). As a product of the times, Snoopy, Come Home is markedly different from the first Peanuts theatrical outing, A Boy Named Charlie Brown. In some ways it's a refreshing change of pace; in others it's an awkward misstep.
Facts of the Case
Snoopy has a great life. He has a loving, devoted owner in Charlie Brown and lots of wonderful friends like Linus and Peppermint Patty. He's also just met Woodstock, a little bird who has become a near-constant companion and de facto secretary. But when he gets a letter from his old owner Lila, who is sick in the hospital, he feels compelled to visit her. Embarking on his journey with Woodstock, he perseveres despite running up against countless "No Dogs Allowed" signs. Meanwhile, the Peanuts gang back home wonders what happened to Snoopy and why he left.
The introductory credit roll for Snoopy, Come Home shouts, in no uncertain terms, that it's a departure from Peanuts films and TV specials of the past. Gone is the understated Vince Guaraldi piano score, replaced by theatrical numbers full of blaring horns and peppy singers. Gone are the muted colors and low-key vibe, replaced by the sort of garishly bright palette that holds a special place in '70s hell alongside bellbottoms and the Nixon administration. It's slick and stylish—a far cry from the 1965 animated debut of Peanuts, the charmingly amateurish A Charlie Brown Christmas. Higher production values are all good and fine, but they're hardly what I associate with what makes Peanuts great.
Still, once it's done playing up its newfound glitziness, Snoopy, Come Home settles into a quintessential Peanuts groove. The opening exchange between Linus and Charlie Brown at the beach is classic, as is the gang playing Monopoly. It is these quotidian moments at which Peanuts excels. Even a simple visit to the library with Charlie Brown, Sally, and Snoopy is a pleasure to watch.
It's the middle third, when Snoopy and Woodstock go on their adventure to see Lila, that's the weak link. The sequence where an obnoxious, hyperactive girl captures Snoopy and Woodstock is by far the film's nadir. It reeks of manic desperation—a C-grade Looney Tunes knockoff from a franchise that works best when it follows its own quirky, laid-back rhythm. There's even a hackneyed old chase gag through multiple doors lining a hallway. It's an embarrassment bordering on disaster. Even worse, it's accompanied by the most annoying song ever, sung by the girl in a tuneless squeal.
Snoopy, Come Home redeems itself when Snoopy finally returns and drops a bombshell: He's leaving Charlie Brown for Lila. The gang all gathers together for a teary farewell party. It's a sad scene, but the next one, featuring Charlie Brown by his lonesome, is even sadder. As Snoopy fades off into a hazy sunset, Charlie Brown expresses his hurt through a melancholy ballad. He stares mournfully at Snoopy's now-abandoned red doghouse and asks, "Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like, and just stay together forever?" It's among the most moving moments in all of Peanuts.
Of course, Snoopy eventually comes back; the Peanuts' world always returns to its original shape. What matters about Snoopy, Come Home isn't its mostly inconsequential narrative, but the way it molds the Peanuts style into something more conventional. Peanuts found success by going against the grain, so it's more than slightly unusual to see the concessions. The worst parts of Snoopy, Come Home are the ones that try the hardest to awkwardly ape someone else's idea of normal; the best ones stick to Peanuts own peculiar, idiosyncratic muse.
Like A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Come Home features no extras or bonuses. It's disappointing, especially considering that the movie is only around 80 minutes long. The feature itself, however, is fairly well presented. There are still noticeable imperfections in the transfer, but its audio and video are clearer (although the omission of a 5.1 audio track is surprising)—probably because Snoopy, Come Home was a higher-budget production to begin with.
As a child, I loved Snoopy, Come Home. Looking back as an adult, I still like it, but its flaws are now all too clear. Overblown and full of unwise detours, it lacks the clarity and focus that made A Boy Named Charlie Brown so endearing. Regardless, when it hits the mark, it hits it well; the best scenes belong in any Peanuts time capsule. There is no doubting Snoopy, Come Home is miles beyond what came after it—the many increasingly forgettable Peanuts TV specials and movies churned out throughout the late '70s and '80s. That might not quite make it a classic, but it's still a fine helping of Peanuts.
Snoopy's still allowed in my home any time.
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