Good Grief! Charlie Brown's All Stars is 50 -- and on DVD!

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Charlie Brown's All Stars 50th Anniversary

When I get home from where I've spent the prior ten hours, I like to grab something cold to drink out of the fridge, and sit down in front of the tube to watch cartoons.

Then I look at the cartoon I'm watching and realize that it's celebrating a 50th anniversary -- and my bubble pops. I'm not coming home from school and grabbing a Hi-C anymore. I have a job, and the drink in my hands is one I wasn't allowed until I turned 21. My cartoons are old, and I've gotten old with them.

CHARLIE BROWN'S ALL STARS! is the cartoon in question today, released on DVD for it's 50th anniversary. It doesn't get as much fanfare as the holiday classics (among which I happen to include the Easter and Thanksgiving cartoons), but story-wise I rank it as much better than any of those. There weren't long gaps of no dialogue filled with music and dancing. This was Charlie Brown engaged in one of the things he loved most, and looking at having to give it up: baseball!

The team is tired of losing, and walk off the team -- just when Linus secures the sponsorship of a local business owner for the team which would result in uniforms. Charlie Brown has to bring them all back together and coach them into becoming better players. Unbelievably, and against type, he actually accomplishes this, turning even Lucy into someone who can hit the ball. Of course, when Charlie Brown is the winning run on base, you can see exactly how the game is going to be lost (because the Peanuts gang is never allowed to win a game, even if they start playing well, no doubt having been modeled on the Chicago Cubs). But that's not the end. The team quits again when they learn that Charlie Brown turned down the sponsorship offer and that there were never going to be uniforms. But it's not until they learn why he did it that we see the heart of the characters truly on display.

This release comes with a second special, A CHARLIE BROWN CELEBRATION. This differs from most of the specials in two ways. First, it is introduced by Charles Schulz himself, who explains what they were trying to accomplish with this release. Secondly, there is no over-arching plot to the piece; it's a bunch of shorts, and a couple of continuing shorts, that just follow the kids through summer and into school. It's like seeing several week's of the newspaper strip jump up and come to animated life. And it's surprisingly enjoyable, perhaps because of this. It's almost a pre-SEINFELD show about nothing. However, be aware that this episode has gone through zero remastering. It's full of scratches and pops, just as if you recorded it on VHS many years ago and just dusted it off today to rewatch.

Containing two of the most overlooked -- and most entertaining -- of the PEANUTS animated features, CHARLIE BROWN'S ALL STARS! is one you should definitely scoop up.

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0