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  Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!) Le Good GriefBuy this film here.
Year: 1980
Director: Bill Melendez, Phil Roman
Stars: Arrin Skelley, Laura Planting, Casey Carlson, Daniel Anderson, Annalisa Bortolin, Bill Melendez, Scott Beach, Pascale de Barolet, Roseline Rubens
Genre: Comedy, Animated, Adventure
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Charlie Brown (voiced by Arrin Skelley) is in school one day when two children are introduced as the class's French exchange students, but he's not prepared for what happens next. It is announced that he will be the exchange student who goes to France, accompanied by his best friend Linus (Daniel Anderson), something which fills him with worry because he's not sure what to expect. On the way home, he meets Peppermint Patty (Laura Planting), who informs him that she too is going abroad with Marcie (Casey Carlson), but when Charlie gets to his house there is a letter waiting for him...

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown was until a full on, in your face, 3D CGI blockbuster version in 2015, the last of the theatrical films made about Peanuts, the beloved creations of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, and written by him as a reflection of his experiences in wartime France, though rest assured there's no gunfire in this. The four kids are swiftly packed off to the foreign land with nary a parent or teacher in sight, as was often the case with these productions, but we were meant to think it was all fine as long as Snoopy, Charlie's dog, was accompanying them, which he does, with little yellow bird pal Woodstock in tow. Snoopy, as we soon see, is more capable than any adult.

Nevertheless, there were those who found themselves unsettled by Bon Voyage at a tender age, which could be because of the fact that the Peanuts gang are left unsupervised in alien territory for great stretches of plot, but also due to that way that Charlie seems to be in very real danger once he reaches France. There's a credits sequence which sets up this latter part of the story where we see a little French girl writing a letter to Chuck in a sinister old chateau, complete with thunder and lightning in a raging storm outside, and that atmosphere is returned to for the main narrative once we get all the "isn't it funny how different America is compared to Britain and France?" stuff.

That's right, Chuck and his mates go to Britain for a brief spell, and Linus is their guide as they fly over Scotland, mangling the pronunciation of Glasgow in a way only an American can. They're not headed there, though, it's London that the plane lands at where we get to see something unusual for a Peanuts cartoon: actual adults, and they speak understandable English too rather than that trumpet "mwah-wah-wah-waah" sound they always used before. So there's that novelty to mark this one out, as well as the whole uprooting the familiar characters and making them go on holiday plot as seen in a million British sitcom movies. While he's in Britain, Snoopy goes to Wimbledon and offers us his best John McEnroe, one of many delights here.

So while you might worrying for the gang, there are compensations in its pleasantly daft humour, and some nice character stuff as well: see Patty's crush on French boy Pierre (Pascale de Barolet) once they cross the Channel, oblivious to the fact that Marcie and he have really hit it off instead. With Snoopy driving the car (a Citroen 2CV, of course), the kids reach their destination but while Patty and Marcie get a proper roof over their heads, Charlie and Linus are forced to sleep in a stable next to the chateau the letter hailed from, as no one is there to meet them. Mysteriously, there is food and drink left for them in the morning when they wake up, so what is going on? More concerning for some viewers, what does the nobleman who owns the chateau and spends his time raging, represented by a shadow figure, plan to do to our heroes? Don't be too scared, it does end happily, if a little illogically, and the charm of Schulz's imagination is always winning. Music by Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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