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A Charlie Brown Christmas(TV) (1965)
Christmas lights may be twinkling red and green, but Charlie Brown has the Yuletide blues. To get in the holiday spirit, he takes Lucy's advice and directs the Christmas play. And what's a Christmas play without a Christmas tree? But everyone makes fun of the short, spindly nevergreen Charlie Brown brings back - until the real meaning of Christmas works its magic once again.
For more about A Charlie Brown Christmas and the A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray release, see the A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray Review
Starring: Peter Robbins (I), Tracy Stratford, Christopher Shea (I), Kathy Steinberg, Chris Doran (I), Karen Mendelson
Director: Bill Melendez
» See full cast & crew
A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray Review
A priceless Christmas classic arrives on Blu with a somewhat steep price tag...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 9, 2009
There's a brief exchange in A Charlie Brown Christmas... a passing line that perfectly encapsulates everything I adore about the endearing 1965 television holiday special, everything I love about its characters, and the immense affection I feel for its every line and frame. "Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy's right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest." More than a timeless seasonal treasure, more than a charming animated endeavor, more than a sweet and simple children's story, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a classic because it grants its diminutive protagonists some very adult sensibilities. When I was young, I was mesmerized by the Peanuts gang and their misadventures in tree hunting and play productions. But today, some twenty-eight years after it first captured my imagination, I feel even more attachment to its refreshing message and all-too-resonant observations. In an age when consumerism has become a religion, it's wonderful to watch something -- even a forty-five-year old cartoon -- that reminds us of the things we lost, forgot, or abandoned so long ago.
Charlie Brown has a problem. Christmas is quickly approaching but, for whatever reason, he feels depressed. He knows he should be happy, excited even, but he can't help but wonder if the holiday season is worth the enthusiasm his friends -- an assortment of Peanuts characters including Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Patty, Pig Pen, and Sally, among others -- have invested in it. After seeking the advice of his friends Linus and Lucy, Charlie Brown agrees to direct his school's annual play. But even though he finds some semblance of purpose, he grows increasingly frustrated with his classmates' obsession with gifts, decorations, and the trappings of Christmas. It all comes to a head when Charlie Brown chooses a tiny, fragile tree for the play instead of one of the shiny aluminum behemoths Lucy suggests he buys. When his friends scoff at his sickly tree and an argument ensues, he bemoans, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" Linus provides a startlingly simple answer; an explanation that eventually brings them all together, reminds them of where their focus should lie, and finally gives Charlie Brown a reason to celebrate.
The characters may be children, but nothing about A Charlie Brown Christmas is solely aimed at young viewers. The Peanuts gang struggles with some lofty issues that make their holiday quest a compelling dissection of commercialism and materialism, as well as a rewarding reflection on Christmas' origins. Director Bill Melendez's decision to cast actual children for each speaking role proves itself to be a brilliant one. Their philosophies and observations aren't haunted by pretension, their every word is adorable, and their forthrightness rings true. They may not say the sorts of things real kids would say, but they deliver their lines with such convincing conviction that their characters come alive. Moreover, Charles M. Schulz's script is beyond reproach, weaving a variety of subplots into a single, cohesive whole. His dialogue is some of the most quotable dialogue to grace an animated short and his pacing is impeccable. The animators' simplistic yet expressive animation completes the experience, injecting appropriately revealing grins and grimaces into the proceedings.
Is it perfect? I hesitate to toss out too much hyperbole, but few other words come to mind. While some will no doubt roll their eyes at the mere mention of Jesus and the recounting of his birth, others will realize how essential the Nativity story's presence is in Charlie Brown's tale. It not only represents everything commercialism rejects, it provides a counterpoint to Charlie Brown's holiday hopelessness and suggests that maybe, just maybe, the separation of Christ and Christmas leaves Christmas with little more than its materialistic trappings. The directness of the message is inspiring, not overbearing. The warmth of its presentation is exhilarating, not contrived. As it stands, A Charlie Brown Christmas remains one of the strongest, most satisfying seasonal specials I've had the pleasure of revisiting year in and year out. Don't be turned off by its production year or its message. Melendez's film is an exceptional Christmas film that will hopefully be around for decades to come.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray, Video Quality
Despite its inherent shortcomings -- color fill fluctuations, moderate print damage, and somewhat inconsistent clarity -- I can safely say that A Charlie Brown Christmas has never looked better. Presented with a bold, relatively beautiful 1080p/VC-1 transfer, the 1965 television classic has been granted deeper blacks, more brilliant colors, crisper lines, and a more technically proficient image, all of which deserve serious praise. A quick comparison to the standard DVD reveals a wealth of upgrades. Detail is so strong that every imperfection, every errant brush stroke, and every quaint background blip is visible. Every artistic nuance of the production is, for better or worse, on full display. More importantly, artifacting, banding, and other digital nonsense is kept to a minimum, and the animation is given the opportunity to rise and fall on its own merits. Granted, the Blu-ray edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas doesn't boast the sort of high-dollar restoration a studio like Disney affords its beloved classics, but it also isn't the rushed holiday cash-in I was expecting.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A Charlie Brown Christmas arrives alongside Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, and all three suffer strikingly similar sonic fates. Instead of offering lossless stereo mixes, Warner has simply repurposed the 192kbps Dolby Digital stereo tracks that appear on the animated specials' standard DVD counterparts. The tracks are passable and, considering their age and condition, altogether serviceable, but wavering music, at-times muffled voices, and background hiss are frequent issues. Though they'll undoubtedly earn a free pass from nostalgic fans focused on the cartoons' humble productions -- perhaps rightfully so -- I wanted more. A lossless stereo track, a more extensive audio restoration... something. Anything more than recycled mixes from previously released DVDs. No, its meager audio offering shouldn't prevent anyone from purchasing A Charlie Brown Christmas, but it certainly won't leave a lasting impression.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
While short on lengthy content, the Blu-ray edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas nevertheless features a pair of high-quality extras. "A Christmas Miracle" (SD, 16 minutes) is an unexpectedly engrossing and extensive overview of the last-minute genesis of the project, the many challenges its creators faced (including a tight deadline), the decisions that made the special everything it is, and more. "It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown" (HD, 23 minutes) is a second Peanuts holiday special that appears to have been given the same solid, high definition overhaul as A Charlie Brown Christmas. Personally, I'd rather have two fantastic supplements than a slew of craptastic features (like those that litter the Blu-ray edition of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas). The set also includes a standard DVD and Digital Copy of the film, a nice touch for those who don't have Blu-ray players in their kids' rooms.
Unfortunately, Warner's packaging is problematic. Covered in glitter, the 2-disc set's cardboard slipcover leaves aggravating flecks of plastic everywhere. I'm sure it makes the case stand out on store shelves, but it's a practical nightmare. Ah well, it's easy to toss the slipcover aside -- just prepare to wash your hands.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Honestly, even if the Blu-ray edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas set me back forty bucks, I'd still pick up a copy. That being said, twenty dollars for twenty-five minutes is a stretch; a decision that will inevitably limit sales and, unfortunately, cause modern families to miss out on an unforgettable holiday classic. Sure, it helps that Warner's 2-disc release features an excellent video transfer, but its standard Dolby Digital audio track and its small (albeit satisfying) supplemental package won't convince frugal fans to fork over more cash. Price point aside, I can't help but recommend this one. If nothing else, drop it on your Wish List and wait for the cost to come down. Either way, make sure A Charlie Brown Christmas finds a home in your collection.
Blu-ray bundles with A Charlie Brown Christmas (3 bundles)
A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Thanksgiving and Christmas Blu-ray from Warner - June 18, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced two holiday-themed titles for Blu-ray release on October 5: the Peanuts special A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and the 1974 stop-motion movie The Year without a Santa Claus. Additionally, the studio will release the Peanuts Holiday ...
• Today on Blu-ray - October 6th - October 6, 2009
For Disney, the animated classic 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' represents many firsts. It was not only the company's first animated feature, but also the first commercially successful animated feature ever released. Today, it achieves another first as the first ...
• Three Warner Animated BDs for the Holidays - July 14, 2009
Warner has announced a trio of children's animated titled for release on Blu-ray on October 6: 'A Charlie Brown Christmas', 'Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!' and 'Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas' (not to be mistaken with the theatrical feature-length movies). ...
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