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  Snoopy Come Home To Beagle Or Not To Beagle
Year: 1972
Director: Bill Melendez
Stars: Chad Webber, Robin Kohn, Stephen Shea, David Carey, Johanna Baer, Hilary Momberger, Christopher DeFaria, Linda Ercoli, Lynda Mendelson, Bill Melendez
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Drama, AnimatedBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Charlie Brown (voiced by Chad Webber) is at the beach with his pals, and standing at the shore he picks up a pebble then throws it into the sea, only to be admonished by Linus (Stephen Shea) when he explains that stone took four thousand years to travel from the water to dry land, and now Charlie has ruined that. Meanwhile, his pet dog Snoopy (Bill Melendez) is playing with Peppermint Patty (Christopher DeFaria), and they have a fine old time surfing, so that when the day is done they agree to meet tomorrow to do the same. By this time Charlie is home and wondering where Snoopy is, growing worried about him, so when the pooch finally arrives he tells him off - but what if Snoopy really did go away?

For this second cinematic outing for the Peanuts gang, their creator Charles M. Schulz wanted to make a more Disney-style effort by channelling the pathos of his divorce into the plot, regarding this as the ideal method to secure a hit, but it didn't work out that way as the end result was a surprise flop. That was possibly because potential audiences were more used to seeing Charlie Brown and Snoopy as television specials (starting with the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1969) and were not to be coaxed into the picture palaces for something they would rather see for free, but it put Schulz and his partner in animation, the mightily moustachioed Bill Melendez, off making features for a while.

They bounced back with the summer camp-based Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown in 1977, though not before flooding the television market with Peanuts specials, overcompensating perhaps but the original comic strip never went out of fashion and kept the characters well in the public consciousness. But go back to Snoopy Come Home and you can see why it didn't really take off, it's a curious mix of tones and scenes that veer from slapstick comedy to tearjerking sentimentality, so much so that their creator might as well have renamed himself Charles M. Schmaltz. To underline his rivalry with the House of Mouse, he drafted in their usual songwriters Sherman Brothers to pen the tunes, but even those were noticeably melancholy.

Snoopy was ostensibly the star this time around as it was his adventure we followed, which begins when he becomes enraged at the sudden preponderance of "No Dogs Allowed" signs around town which hinder his quality of life. That the other kids are getting to be a drag too doesn't help his demeanour, so when he receives a plaintive letter from his previous owner, a little girl called Lila (Johanna Baer) who is currently ill in hospital, he feels duty bound to go and see her - without telling anyone where he is going. With only the little bird Woodstock for company, off he sets, and for a while this becomes a road movie including a sequence where he is dognapped by a different girl, Clara (Linda Ercoli), who aggressively tries to tie Snoopy down.

That's just one of the parts that come across as a shade misjudged, but also lend the film its own particular tone, so one scene will have Snoopy beating up Linus to show how badly treated people will find someone else to lash out at, then in another the Peanuts gang are all distraught and in tears because their favourite beagle is abandoning them, which isn't really what you want from Charlie Brown. Sure, the mood could get philosophically downbeat, you expect that from Chuck, but it's rare he would actually get depressed enough to break down. Along with this is a message that one dog cannot serve two masters, so Snoopy has to choose between Charlie and Lila, and if it's no surprise who he opts for, it is resolved in a fairly clever fashion. Still, this is probably the best Peanuts feature Schulz and Melendez produced as it does have the most coherent approach, and if none of the four films were without problems, then you could acknowledge the warmth of feeling they conjured up, even if that tended less towards laughter here and more towards dejection.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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