Monday, July 28, 2014

Snoopy, Come Home





U.S. THEATRICAL RELEASE DATE:  8/9/1972   
Director:  Bill Melendez

Buoyed by both the continuing success of Peanuts as a comic strip/toy factory as well as the solid box office of A Boy Named Charlie Brown, the mighty trio of Schulz/Mendelson/Melendez decided to make another full-length feature.  One that would center around the wildly popular Snoopy.  As such, it would have a broader appeal and be easier to digest for the casual fan.  The result was one of the most tear-yanking, heart-wrenching, wail-pulling animated films ever made.  As Samuel Beckett once said:  "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness."

STORY:  Immediately--SNOOPY.  A burst, a blast, 'tis be SNOOPYMANIA!  (Imagine Beatlemania, with better grooming and less screaming.) 

Where better to begin than the beach?  Snoopy's there, after all, and he's the star of this show.  He's frolicking in the water and sand with Peppermint Patty, and they're hitting it off like pork and beans.  So much so, they make plans to do it all again tomorrow.  But when Snoopy shows up with all necessary ingredients for a day of surfing, swimming and scarfing, he is shown a most indelicate exit by some off-screen authority.  Overnight, it seems, a NO DOGS ALLOWED sign was posted on the shore.  ("That overly-civilized canine is buddying up to the dyke-y kid, SHUT IT DOWN!")  Peppermint Patty just sits on her blanket in the meantime, waiting and waiting as the bologna sandwiches begin to turn.  Eventually she decides she has been stood up.  What a cad, burying a little lady's hopes so cavalierly! 

But that's not what he did at all, he wanted to have the best day ever with his new best friend ever, and the omnipresent MAN had to put the kibosh on.  No time to cry over uneaten sandwiches, however; there's books about bunnies to read!  Joining the Browns at the library starts out grand, but before long, Snoopy's uproarious laughter leads to yet another abrupt exit.  Not because he was being too disruptive but because--NO DOGS ALLOWED. 

Hell hath no fury like a pup denied his bunny books, and woe be the child who gets in his way while the flame still burns.  Or, the children.  Linus soon finds himself in a fierce tete-a-tete with the beagle over the boy's beloved blanket.  Then Lucy and Snoopy partake in a pugilistic showdown for the ages. 

While his dog is off being grumpy, Charlie Brown sits at home and wonders where he went so wrong as a pet owner.  Why is his dog so darned independent?  Why can't he just enjoy playing a simple game of fetch like a normal dog?  Why does everything have to come back around to World War I?  Why does Snoopy insist that Charlie Brown bring his supper to the doghouse like a personal waiter?  The irritation only increases when Charlie Brown slices his thumb on the can opener whilst preparing the evening meal.  He brandishes his bandaged digit before Snoopy in an attempt to make him feel guilty, but Snoopy acknowledges only his hunger pangs.  (I cut my thumb on a meat slicer once.  Six stitches.  Still have the scar.  Shuddup, Brown.)

Over the airy strains of "Do You Remember Me?" we are introduced--sort of--to a new face.  A young blonde girl is seen in a hospital bed, holding a toy that appears to be the spawn of the Jolly Green Giant and Raggedy Ann. Suddenly she makes her way over to a table and begins to write a letter.   Her forlorn expression strolls hand in hand with the song as she makes her way to the lobby.  Who is this girl? 

Her name is Lila, and her letter was for Snoopy.  Instantly he departs to see her, without reservation and without explanation to his owner.  A morose Charlie Brown spends hours wondering who this girl is, and what she means to his dog.  Leave it to Linus to find out the rest of the story:  Lila was Snoopy's original owner. 

After traveling untold miles by foot, and just narrowly escaping extended captivity at the hands of a sugar-powered sociopath named Clara, Snoopy (and Woodstock!) finally reach the hospital.  His presence has worked wonders for Lila; her discharge is imminent and she asks Snoopy to go home with her--for good.  He consents, but must first return to the neighborhood and give his old friends a proper goodbye. 

What constitutes a "proper goodbye"?  A farewell party that makes you want to mix all the strychnine into all the Hawaiian Punch.  To this day, people who saw Snoopy, Come Home as children attest to the traumatic effects of watching virtually every character bawl their li'l eyes out as they say so long, farewell, to their dear quadruped friend.  After Snoopy finishes bequeathing his possessions to those in attendance, it's speech time.  Linus and Schroeder each try their best, but Charlie Brown is so overcome with grief that he is unable to lift his head, much less speak. 

The parting gifts are handed out.  Every gift is a bone.  The very same type of bone, at that, over and over.  Is this a bye-bye bash for a dog, or a boring marriage?  Eh?!

Snoopy is so painfully torn.  While he has grown to care for the round-headed kid that feeds him, he also feels a sense of duty to Lila.  She credited him with her quick recovery, after all, from…whatever malady led to her hospitalization.  He had to make a choice, and made a choice he did. 

Facing a life without Snoopy, Charlie Brown will inevitably slice his wrists with a can opener (bittersweet irony!).  Kid's so mopey 'round town he makes Gregor Samsa seem like Hitoshi Matsumoto. 

Snoopy, on the other hand, is thrilled to be in his new home!  Well, not really.  Firstly, he's only just arrived outside the apartment complex when we see him next, and secondly, ambivalence is plastered all over his fuzzy face.  Lila comes out to greet him, and brings a very special someone he'll definitely be getting to know better--her cat.  Twist!  Wait, what's the sign on the side of the building there?  What does it say?  NO DOGS ALLOWED?  Double twist!  Later, babe!  Have fun with your pussy! 

The sheer joy that overwhelms the gang upon Snoopy's return is short-lived once he takes to the typewriter and demands all his stuff back.  That's right, Schroeder; hand over all the vinyl.  You think Snoopy doesn't take meticulous inventory?

Lacking the depth and breadth of its predecessor, Snoopy, Come Home is still a highly entertaining watch.  Yes, the scenes where the kids say farewell to Snoopy are sad as all hell.  Yes, there isn't really much of an emotional connection established between Snoopy and Lila (it's sweet when he enters the hospital room and snuggles up next to her, but that could just be because he's walked however many miles and is bone-tired).  But the laughs are still plentiful (and natural) and the songs are top-notch, if not exactly what I imagine when I think of "Peanuts music."  This gets a 10.

ANIMATION:  From the very start of the action, I feel the beach.  I'm soaking up the sun, smooshing the sand between my toes, rocking the EPMD hat.    But the fact remains, while the creative team took pains to make their second film different in plot structure and musical scope, the animation style is actually less ambitious this go-round.  There aren't multiple extended wordless sequences that keep the audience engaged with visual ingenuity, and as such, the opportunities for any innovation are nonexistent.  Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty at the carnival comes closest, and that section is full of color and motion, a deep-fried feast for starving orbs no doubt, but when have you known Peppermint Patty to ever keep her mouth shut for any appreciable amount of time?  And why are they the only two attendees at the carnival?  Even if you don't dig rides, there's always funnel cake!

I'm rather enamored still with Snoopy and Woodstock's walking scenes.  We see frames that are not just indications of the day's progression, but also of the internal experiences of the silent travelers, moving from place to place, adapting to the different terrains, taking in their surroundings while never losing sight of the goal. 

I give the animation for Snoopy, Come Home a 9.  While there is so much to admire, it's not an improvement on the prior movie's look and in some places the limitations of the era's technology become apparent.   Take that infamous farewell party; it is extremely tempting to poke plenty fun at the copious teardrops that fly from everyone's eyes, and believe me I would…if I weren't so sad Snoopy Snoopy why do you have to leeeeeaaave?

MUSIC:  Schulz and co. wanted a more "commercial" feel for the soundtrack.  Exit Vince Guaraldi and enter the Sherman Brothers, who as this link will attest, have penned a fuck-ton of scores for movie musicals.  Certainly the film is packed sick with tracks that are barely-nuanced yet swiftly-recalled.  If Clara's "Fundamental Friend Dependability" sounds awful redolent of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," well, guess who wrote the score to Mary Poppins?  Incidentally, "Fundamental Friend Dependability"?  Much better tune, and much less annoying to type out.

The two Snoopy and Woodstock "buddy tunes" are unusually awesome, in the way that eating a sandwich on your way to the deli would be awesome.   (The mouth harp even makes a reappearance.)  The chase-sequence music that plays over the second half of Snoopy and Lucy's bout is pretty great.  (Note, please, how the first several seconds their feet move in time with the beat.)

Lila's aforementioned solo turn, "Do You Remember?," is the sensation of tears that have not yet left their berth.  Much more affecting is "It Changes."  That song.  Wow.  I still half-expect Charlie Brown to hang himself by the end of it, every time I watch.  Basically the 1970s version of "When She Loved Me."

I would be disgustingly remiss to skip Thurl Ravenscroft.  His great, grinchy tone is heard each time Snoopy sees a NO DOGS ALLOWED sign.  That is some serious bass. 

Overall, the soundtrack gets a nice 9

VOICES:  The main performances are outstanding.  Chad Webber makes a super Charlie Brown.  Total 10.  He just sounds like the most abused punching bag in the entire gym.  (Todd Barbee handles the singing for "It Changes," however.)  Robin Kohn is a snug, smug 9 as Lucy.  Stephen Shea does big brother proud with a near-perfect Linus.  Hilary Momberger comes through as Sally yet again (10) and Chris DeFaria is so good (9.5) as Peppermint Patty I wish he had more to do. 

Johanna Baer's Lila gets an 8.  Well-done, but a little too light.  (Well, she is ill.)  I dunno, she just doesn't strike me as a child meant to own the world's most ineffable canine.  Linda Ercoli's performance as Clara is as wonderful as the actual character is unbearable.  Engaging, expressive…Ercoli.  10.

(Patty, 5, Pig Pen, Violet, Franklin, Roy and Shermy are all animated, but do not speak.  Schroeder speaks, but I can barely be bothered.)

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE IT

--Woodstock's on-screen debut!

--I bet he ate that hot dog right after using it to surf.

--

Nice call-back to Snoopy's debut.

--Lucy vs. Snoopy lasted longer than the Spanish-American War.

--Cool nurse Lila has.  Doesn't even question why there's a checkers game in progress when Lila's the only one in the room.

--I dig how portentous this shot proves to be.

--Land on a swanky hotel whilst playing Monopoly? Random-ass beep on the nose is the proper response.

--

Stereotypical, yes…but at least they stop crying for two seconds!  I wish Jose was around to gift Snoopy a sombrero.  There might've been a dance scene!  Everybody loves to see Snoopy dance.

--
I see the plate in front of Snoopy is empty.  Perhaps I will fill it with my heart.

--The melody of "Fundamental Friend Dependability" would make a mighty fine song for the musical I've been writing about the depraved life and crimes of Andrei Chikatilo. 

I've managed to evade police
I slaughtered the sergeant's niece
Drowned her in some grease
Chopped her piece by piece
I'm such an uncommon beast
I'm on a violent vicious evil lethal killing spree
Violent vicious evil lethal killing spree
Violent vicious evil lethal
Violent vicious evil lethal
Violent vicious evil lethal killing spree


--
Fourth wall, whaddup.  It's ya boy, Snoop. 

--Oh I love you, Snoopy!  I love you more than anything in this whole world!  I love you even more than Pig Pen loves filthiness!  More than the sound of sizzling bacon!

--Snoopy venting his fresh frustrations on the Van Pelt siblings provides the comedic highlight of Snoopy, Come Home.  He straight up ambushes Linus; there will be no quick circuit around the yard ending with a boy sent airborne.  Snoopy is aggrieved and he intends to inflict pain.  Naturally Linus responds in kind, including repeated twists of Snoopy's nose that would cause a lesser canine to cower and quiver.  Being an outstanding example of his species, however, Snoopy fights back.  He creases his face into a mask of maliciousness and steps on Linus's foot, lifting the young boy from a sitting position to a standing one, then proceeds to kick each shin.  The second blow lands so hard that a shoe flies off Linus's foot.  His cries of agony are simultaneously hilarious and unnerving.  I kinda felt bad for the fella.  At least until his other shoe goes flying.  Cheap shot, kid.

Walking on and fuming still, Snoopy sees Lucy working over a punching bag hanging from a tree.  She issues a wordless challenge and the fight is on.  Is she nuts or what?  Snoopy is a madman in dog form.  He'll throw a TV at you, crazy.  He picks up a single boxing glove, fits it over his schnozz and proceeds to rope him a dope. 


Looks like he's wearing the business end of a pacifier. 

BUT YOU CAN'T GO BACK THERE

--Sally:  "I hate reading.  I just want to be a good housewife."  Your Sister's a Budding Republican, Charlie Brown.

--Unsurprisingly, this scene was edited out of some telecasts. 

--The story of how Snoopy came into Charlie Brown's life has been told once in the strips and twice on the screen.  While Snoopy's Reunion has Charlie Brown making the decision to buy a puppy, the strip and Snoopy, Come Home feature a conversation where Charlie Brown explains to Linus that his parents decided to get him a dog after a bad experience with another child left him inconsolable. 

--Public transport won't let him board, libraries deny him the joy of reading, beaches won't permit him to frolic, but a hospital will surely have zero problems with Snoopy. 

--Which reminds me…Snoopy is kicked off a bus in this movie, yet in the last movie he not only was allowed to ride, he was permitted to play the mouth harp as well!  Their neighborhood turned quite fascist quite quickly.

--Clara mentions that Snoopy and Woodstock will make fine additions to her "collection" of pets.  However, Snoopy and Woodstock are the only pets we actually see.  There is an empty birdcage, as well as a portrait of a large orange cat.  In memoriam? 

--

No gathering where donuts are involved has any business being so gosh-golly sad.

--

Has your child lost the will to go on yet?  Have you?

--
That's a bit on the nose.


--

BAM!  Right in the sternum.

--Peppermint Patty is such a quality friend.  She sees Chuck all low and woeful, and she takes charge.  Take me to the carnival, Chuck!  It'll be fun.  Ferris wheels, bumper cars, unscrupulous games, funnel cake!  Also I'll be lecturing you on the social dangers of being a moody bastard.

--Snoopy, Come Home was destined to be sad.  The film's initials are also the first three letters of the word school, and when you're a kid, ain't a damn thing more depressing than school.  Not even a damn disloyal dog.



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