Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Magic, Charlie Brown

AIRDATE: 4/28/81

STORY: Charlie Brown thinks that Snoopy's daily life (sleep, eat, nap, snack, fantasize) is counterproductive. In the name of canine empowerment, he hands over a library card and beseeches the beagle to check out some books not penned by Helen Sweetstory. The librarian doesn't bat an eye as Snoopy leaves with "How To Perform Magic".

Practicing with Woodstock on the doghouse, Snoop mouths spells soundlessly, wreaking all sorts of mini-havoc to great merriment. Inspired beyond even his owners wildest hopes, Snoopy puts on a magic show for the kids as "The Great Houndini", with Marcie and Sally as his dutiful assistants. Among the tricks that he performs with wildly varying proficiency are: rabbit-in-the-hat (rather, Woodstock with rabbit ears); the magic closet (featuring Pep Pat, natch); stick-in-the-hole (which Franklin volunteers for--mighty white of him, wouldn't you say?) and levitating Lucy.

Most spectacularly, Snoopy makes Charlie Brown disappear. A sudden rainstorm breaks up the show, leaving the boy who has felt transparent most of his days actually transparent, doomed to "roam the world as a lost soul". He should be rendered desolate by the great torture that is the certain knowledge that he will never see God, but somehow Chuck makes the best of it. By sneaking up on Lucy and kicking that goddamn football--three times!

This shocking triumph cannot stand in the land of Lucy, and she angrily demands that Snoopy turn Charlie Brown visible once more. The great dog and his avian chum make haste inside the doghouse, which seems bigger than most condos. It even has a laboratory, wherein the spell reversal is conjured. (Solving the mystery of the Chinese Water Torture Cell would have to wait.) Unfortunately for Chuck, his salvation comes just as he is about to boot the ball for a fourth time.

Lucy insists that the previous instances of flying pigskin are moot, as she and Charlie Brown did not actually go through the song-and-dance and oh yeah, she couldn't see his ass. Perturbed over the escalating debate, the Great Houndini performs one last trick: levitating (and leaving) Lucy into the air.

Snoopy as magician is a unique idea, and pulled off well. The ending just seems way too "kiddy", though. 7.5

ANIMATION: 10. Everything pops out pleasantly--the colors are bright, the lines are sharp. The waves that shoot out from Snoopy's hands as he seeks his unobservable master are hysterical. The outline of invisible Chuck in a downpour is great too.

MUSIC: Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen do the honors...it is the eighties, after all. It's Lockers-ish funk. I half-expected Toni Basil to come out as the magicians assistant. 7.5

VOICES: This group is all over the place. Brent Hauer does a great Pep Pat (9), while Sydney Penny falls flat as Lucy (7...ugh, the shrillocity!). Sally is a fantastic 9 coming from Cindi Reilly (that's how you do "kiddy" right--R. Kelly believes she can fly), but a barely-there Linus courtesy of Earl Reilly is a mere 7. Christopher Donahue's Franklin is a fine 7.5. Shannon Cohn's Marcie does best of all (9), if a little more high-pitched than I am used to with the character. Most tragically disheartening is the reality of Charlie Brown's voice. Michael Mandy is hereby "The Flatlander" for his dreary, bland showing in It's Magic. I don't care if you ever come back to plain view, asshole! 6.

THE RIGHT WAY TO DO WRONG

--Snoopy is to infinity. Leave that "beyond" shit to Pixar trifles.

--Snoopy's face after Pep Pat exits the closet says it all and a few extra words.

THE GRIM GAME

--As Snoopy flails as The Great Houndini, some anonymous kid straight outta summer camp berates him: "Fake fake fake! Yah yah yah, fake fake fake!" When he's set straight by the master of ceremonies, it still feels wildly inadequate. He should have left that show with one less arm than when he arrived.

--
Before returning to his tome for the solution, Snoopy tries to bring Chuck back the old-fashioned way: coat him with mud and blow-dry it. Charlie Brown likens the feeling to a "chocolate chip cookie"--so it's inevitable he would crumble. Oh noes!

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It's Magic, Charlie Brown is a cool little special, far below the classics both established and unsung, and a bit above the unfortunate likes of It's the Pied Piper and It Was My Best Birthday Ever. The script moves swiftly and contains a multitude of chuckles, and falters only with the predictably cutesy ending. There's a relative dearth of utterly unforgettable lines/images/moments, but you could kill a half-hour in worse ways. Now back away from that episode of Family Guy and pop this disc in.

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