In this day of South Park and The Simpsons, there is something refreshing about going back and watching a couple of Peanuts specials. With Valentine's Day on the way people will have the chance to do just that with the recent release of a remastered edition of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. The DVD release includes not just the titled program, but two others, You're in Love, Charlie Brown and It's Your Fist Kiss, Charlie Brown, as well.
Watching all three titles it becomes clear that there is a reason why Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is the most famous of the episodes included. The story follows Charlie Brown as Valentine's Day approaches, and passes, without him receiving a single valentine. Most notably, of course, he wants one from the little red-haired girl, not that she notices him at all. The rest of the Peanuts appears in the episode as well, and their trials and tribulations with love are simultaneously funny and heartfelt.
The best of the Peanuts cartoon strips, movies, and television specials have a humor and wisdom to them that current shows eschew almost completely. Charlie Brown's troubles (and to a lesser extent those of the rest of the group) are universal. We are all able to completely put ourselves in Charlie Brown's shoes because we've been there. The main difference comes in that his troubles are somewhat accentuated. Where we might dream of showing up for a final exam 3 hours late due to circumstances entirely beyond our control and wake up in a cold sweat about it, Charlie Brown actually would show up 3 hours late. Where we might dream that no one (even the people that give everyone a Valentine's Day card) might send us a card for Valentine's Day, Charlie Brown actually doesn't receive any. It makes him an incredibly sympathetic figure. The other “bonus” specials included in this DVD release are moderately less successful in creating this sense about Charlie Brown.
The better of the two is You're in Love, Charlie Brown, in which Charlie Brown does his best to let the little red-haired girl know his true feelings before the end of the school year. His multiple attempts to introduce himself and to ingratiate himself to her fail in true Charlie Brown-style. The episode proves moderately interesting, but is a little too one-note when compared to Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.
The last special, It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown is, in virtually every way, a let down. Not only is the little red-haired girl given a name, Heather, but the episode actually depicts her, repeatedly. Here, Charlie is tasked with escorted Heather to the big Homecoming dance. He frets about it throughout the football game where, due to Lucy's repeatedly pulling the football away from him, he fails in his job as kicker, and is consequently blamed for the loss. Despite this embarrassment though, Charlie manages to perform admirably as Heather's escort at the dance, even giving her a ceremonial kiss. However, by the next morning, Charlie Brown can't remember anything that took place at the dance.
In Charlie Brown's world things just aren't supposed to work out that well and the addition of his amnesia seems like a cheap way of dampening his happiness. If Charlie Brown was finally to succeed he ought to have done so. This deus-ex-machina resolution to the plot, which though successfully reestablishing the quintessential Peanuts norm is wholly unsatisfying. Worse still however is actually seeing (and naming) the little red-haired girl. She went from being a universal ideal to solely Charlie Brown's ideal and the transformation is not a good one.
Despite the shortcomings in this final episode, the first two are worth the cost of the DVD. And, better than that, if one selects “play all” from the DVD menu only the first two specials play (Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown appears first followed by You're in Love, Charlie Brown, and then the DVD repeats Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown), the third is completely ignored. It is as though the individuals responsible for creating the menu were well aware that the viewer would be better served by skipping It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown. It's not a bad idea, and one I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone buying the DVD.