Reviews

There's More to Life than a Plastic Supper Dish: 'He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown'

Snoopy is a canine Lucy Ricardo, hell-bent on realizing his full potential.


He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown

Director: Bill Melendez
Distributor: Warner
Release Date: 2010-09-21

About two years ago, I sat through a high school production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and walked away less than enthralled. Yep, call me a philistine, but I’m just not ready – maybe never will be – to detach myself aesthetically from the charming Bill Melendez-animated Peanuts TV specials featuring everyone’s favorite blockhead, good ‘ol Chuck Brown.

Cut me some slack…I grew up with these programs, as any GenXer with a television set did. I don’t want to hear Snoopy talk. I don’t want to watch kids who don’t remotely resemble Linus, Pigpen, Violet, and the rest of the gang as I recognize them. It hardly helped matters that a huge poster featuring Charles Schulz’s original drawings hung high in the center of the stage, staring down the cast members, an omnipresent reminder of the nostalgia-drenched images fixed in my mind.

I just watched He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown, now out on DVD, and while slipping the disc into the DVD player, I plumbed my memory for any plot points from the show. It’s actually the fifth prime-time special featuring the Peanuts bunch, and I’m certain I caught it back in the '70s, but ironically, my recollections were hazy, at best.

It seems that Snoopy, America’s premiere pooch – well, he’ll settle it in a cage match with Scooby-Doo – is misbehaving in grand style, playing incessant pranks on all nearby humans, sometimes quite aggressively. Summoning up as much huff ‘n puff as he can, Snoops blow original Mean Girl Lucy into a wading pool, and who can resist a cackle at seeing Miss Football-Yanker take a splash! In fact, Lucy becomes the primary target for Snoopy’s insolence, and the two later engage in fisticuffs.

Charlie Brown, with the damn mutt getting on his last nerve, decides to ship Snoops back to the fabled Daisy Hill Puppy Farm for a crash course in obedience. Don’t know about you, but the appellation “Puppy Farm” has an ominous dog mill feeling to me. PETA, where art thou? Anyhow, Snoopy hits the road to Daisy Hill, and Chuck rings up Peppermint Patty to arrange an overnight stop for his beloved but exasperating dog. Hilariously, the ever-clueless Peppermint Patty truly believes that Snoopy is human, despite appearances to the contrary. She happily takes him in, but gets more than she bargained for when Snoopy treats her home like a luxe hotel, refusing to clean up after himself.

He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown contains numerous requisite scenes expected from any Peanuts TV project. Snoopy fantasizes about World War I fighter pilot glory, gnashing his teeth at his arch-foe the Red Baron, Schroeder tinkles the ivories in his usual near-fetal position., and the late Vince Guaraldi’s lilting cool jazz arrangements underscore the action. As an aficionado of bossa nova, I was pleasantly surprised to hear these rhythms in the soundtrack, and still lament that Guaraldi’s sudden death in 1976 deprived later Peanuts specials of his bouncy, indispensable sound. The bonus program in this package, Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown, was made in 1980, and the musical score is decidedly lackluster.

Life Is a Circus is definitely anti-climactic when pitted against the Melendez-Schulz collaborations of the Johnson-Nixon era. For my money, the classic Peanuts holiday trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, remain the gold standard for children’s animated programming. However earnest they may be, they are surprisingly tart for that pre-“Simpsons” period, and truthful about human nature.

As you might guess, Snoopy gets roped – almost literally – into being a circus dog, performing tricks for the unwashed masses. Notably, “Life” is less talky than other Peanuts specials, and I miss the witty, deadpan one-liners that have become a trademark of the series. And I’m not spilling any beans by informing you that Snoops returns to his ‘master’ – does anybody really call Snoopy’s shots? – in the climax, and all seems right with the world. By the '80s, however, and with mighty respect to Bill Melendez, Peanuts television oeuvre could only be viewed as diminishing returns.

Also present in the Extras package is a nearly 30-minute documentary about the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, an indoor skating complex that Schulz and his wife constructed for the city of Santa Rosa, which includes some home footage of the Schulz family. An odd fit with the two animated shorts, but I suspect that Schulz devotees are still hungry for any tidbits about the artist’s life, any window into his everyday concerns.

Finally, we also get two trailers: the animated adaptation of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, which piques my curiosity slightly, and a n advertisement for LEGO’s bizarre new interactive game, featuring traditional LEGO figures as Harry Potter characters! A weird, campy bit of brand synergy there. Thirty years hence, collector geeks will be combing Ebay for copies of the game, if that monopolistic titan is still fleecing customers.

The common thread between He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown and Life Is A Circus, Charlie Brown is the prominence of Snoopy, and surely it’s no coincidence that these two programs are grouped together on a single disc. Undeniably, Snoopy is the megastar of the Peanuts cartoons, and I can’t imagine them without his antic persona. He’s a canine Lucy Ricardo, intent on realizing his full potential, whether swinging on a trapeze, gunning down the Baron, or wrestling a recalcitrant lawn chair. His dreams are far less grandiose than Walter Mitty’s, but unlike that frustrated dreamer, Snoopy tries to live his fantasies. Still, like any loyal canine, Daisy Hill’s most famous scion always finds his way back to his doghouse.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.