Friday, October 31, 2014

Jason X--The Live Review

On Halloween of 2012 I posted a "live" review for one of the most overlooked horror films ever made, Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  Although I had no intention of a repeat performance with the limiting format, I was politely asked to give the same treatment to Jason X.  After some time, I decided it would be poor form to let down a friend.

Oh, Jason X.  Released in 2002, the tenth installment in the legendary Friday the 13th schlock-scare series belly-flopped at the domestic box office.  I can't imagine why; after all, this is essentially JASON IN SPACE.

Why in the hell would JASON IN SPACE ever get the green light?  Well, with the long-awaited "Freddy meets Jason" movie foundering in development hell, Hollywood "creatives" wracked their pellet-sized brains to think up a movie that would fill the gap while not also screwing continuity in the ass.  And if it ended up sucking...no real loss.  Freddy vs. Jason would forgive all sins.  But is the sin known as Jason X mortal?  Or just venial?

0:00  Instantly I can tell Jason X is not a monumentally shit film worthy of a cult following.  This will be a tepid bloodbath.

0:40  As the words "A JIM ISAAC FILM" appear onscreen, I swear I hear the garbled chorus on the soundtrack repeating "Isaac, Isaac."

0:49  Are those supposed to be flames?  Am I looking at CGI Hell right now, literally and figuratively?  Black and white footage of Arthur Brown scampering around a soundstage with a candle-covered crown on his head is scarier.

0:59  If only they'd cast DMX in the role of Jason instead of this Kane Hodder!  "He's back...and he's barking mad!"  "GRRR...arf arf!  It is not! A! Game!"

1:10  These flicks have never been renowned for their star power, but I'm pretty sure 55% of the cast are related.

2:11  Music by Harry Manfredini, whose style has been likened to a cross between Henry Mancini, Harry Nilsson and Manfred Mann's Earth Band.  (By me, just now.)

3:12  The year is 2010.  The place is Crystal Lake Research Facility.  Scientists have decided that since Jason Voorhees is an unkillable bastard, the only sensible course of action is to place him in frozen stasis.   Until they can transport him to some flash freezing doo-hickey, they have him in a room all Houdini'ed up.

4:10  Jason and the young security guard are kinda eye-fucking each other.  Sexual tension not yet thick enough for a butter knife, but give it time....

4:27  Yes, young man.  Walk towards the homicidal maniac.  Follow the bright, flashing trail of your basest impulses.  Let your seedy curiosity transport you to a side of life that has always been verboten.

5:36  They're coming to take him away, ha ha!  Jason will be moved to the Scranton facility after freezing?  Dwight Schrute will have several field days.

6:10  Weak rehash of one of the more macabre moments from Silence of the Lambs.  Love hurts, kid.  Jason requires a ride or die bitch.

8:17  This "Rowan" woman is young(ish) and a racial minority.  This indicates to me that she will be integral to the plot.  (Also, if you look again at the movie poster, you can see her horrified expression reflected in the machete blade.)  Here, as she tries to elude the newly-freed Jason, we are subjected to another close up of her face, a shot that is intended to stir up feelings of dread and drama.  In a better movie, I'm certain it would have.

8:38  Rowan traps Jason in a pod.  You fool!  A fly skittered in there with him and now he'll emerge as a dastardly dipteran deathmongerer!  Wait...that would have been a much more enjoyable movie!  Damn my imagination.

8:51  Said pod, as it turns out, was the means by which the scientists were going to freeze Jason.  This Rowan woman smacks some buttons and boom, the cryogenic process begins.  None of this stops Jason from thrusting his machete through the pod door, right into her gut.  Ice fluid leaks from the pod into the room, meaning both killer and victim end up iced.

10:03  The good news:  the research facility is being searched by a group of folks that dressed up as Mortal Kombat characters for Halloween.  The bad news:  they all picked Kabal.

10:40  Except for the asshole who wore the Tusken Raider costume.

11:08  This is the crew of the spaceship Apache:  Professor Lowe and his students Jessica, Tsunaron, Azrael, Kinsa, Stoney and Waylander.  They locate the chilled-out corpses of Jason and Rowan and decide to tote 'em back to their vessel.  Fucking brilliant idea that won't go even a scintilla of wrong.  One of those brats even goes, "I'm so cold," a line which could not have been for the benefit of the audience, as visual evidence of freezing is everywhere around the room.  So either the character is being a dick, or is unable to keep any thought unspoken.

11:46  Ice Ice Jason looks rather like frostbitten Swiss cheese.

12:12  This Azrael kid gotta die first.

14:29  But then cowboy pilot is introduced into the plot, and I am now torn as to who I want to see bear the bloody brunt of the blade first.

16:10  Well, perv-o cowboy pilot just had a moment of rueful self-deprecation.  He is allowed to die later on in the film.  Doesn't mean I'll feel sad when he's slaughtered in some comically gruesome manner, but I'll no longer feel good about it.

17:00  How can Azrael look like a cross between young Frank Zappa and old Weird Al yet still manage to be crazily uncool?

17:46  In my head, I have recast Jason X with Zeljko Ivanek, Bonnie Wright, James van der Beek, Anna Paquin, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Garner and Usher.

19:30  Ah, love between the young and witless.  Stoney and Kinsa are getting hot and bothersome talking about the mass murderer lying on the slab, due to get sliced up by the ship's doctor any second now.   Gag me with a machete.

21:01  Rowan's body has been regenerated--the magic of the future!  Meanwhile, the doctor--a nonsense-free blonde woman who weighs 'round about 75 pounds--tells her horny young charges to take it elsewhere.  This is Jason X, not Cronenberg's Crash.

22:43  It's the year 2455.  Man is still alive, woman has survived, but hey--Jason still has 70 years to kill everyone!

24:00  Prof. Lowe calls up his sugar daddy, who hints that the preserved body of a notorious killer just might have great value for a collector.  After all, someone paid half a million dollars for Mark David Chapman's copy of Double Fantasy. 

26:15  You won't hear me saying this often, but wow, this autopsy is gross.  Whenever the doctor slices into the skin it produces a sound like two people screwing on a queen size bed made out of maggots.

26:21  Jason's hockey mask is quite gay-friendly.  I'm not sure how to feel about that, context considered.

26:32  The Professor really shoulda sent some reinforcements to the doc upon discovering that she was dissecting a freak of super-nature.  Didn't-a, though.

26:56  I could deal with the Prof fucking one of his female students that I can't tell apart.  Or even fucking one of his male students that I can tell apart.  But this cross-dressing masochism jamboree is resolutely unsexy in its erotic laziness.  Nipples twisted with tongs, eh?  Livin' on the edge, muthafucka.  2455, and you're telling me no one's invented a device that can induce instantaneous orgasm when placed anywhere on the body?  'Cause that would be pinnacle.

28:11  Jesus, doc, take a lunch.  Take a couple.  I can see every single bone in yer body jutting out from underneath the skin.

28:30  Our first look at KM-14, female android built by Tsunaron.  We see her showing off a pair of fake boobs that she's just so proud of, 'cause now she looks more like a real live girl!

28:56  Ah, here we go--teens shagging in the bed and Jason twitching on the slab.  No matter what, no matter where, the hormones of morons penetrate Jason's senses and jump start him into action most vengeful.

30:37  Jason awakes and attacks the poor emaciated doctor, sticking her head down into some liquid nitrogen (think Huey Lewis near the start of the "I Want a New Drug" video) and then bringing it back up only to smash it down onto a counter, sending chunks of ice everywhere.   He grabs a machete-esque surgical implement and now the magic is gonna happen.

31:28  The crew are explaining to a still-discombobulated Rowan that they hail from the planet known as "Earth Two."  What happened to the first one?  Stunningly, human beings made it uninhabitable.

31:31  The hell with this composer and the "Bernard Hermann 101" class he keeps failing.

32:34  Freezing Jason was never a good idea, simply because it's a humane solution.  Apparently no one ever thought to just cut Jason in half.  Then cut each half in half.  Then, pour acid onto the remaining chunks.  This cryogenic crap was destined to flush.

33:07  The only thing less appealing than teenager sex is old person sex.  Inexperience and anxiety versus gravity and atrophy.  Either way, my vagina lips virtually seal themselves shut at the mere thought.

33:41  These two aren't fucking, but they sure bitch at each other like they do.  Get 'em outta this movie and put 'em on the set of a Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? remake directed by Betty Thomas.

34:40  Jason X qualifies as a good horror film in that I want to watch every one of these people get murdered.

35:09  That motherfucker Voorhees has style!  Post-coital blade to Stoney's gut, and Kinsa takes a jet of liquid to the face--again.

35:51  I will never forget where I was when I learned of Stoney's death.  Sitting in front of a MacBook, sipping a cold latte, wondering how I ever got so lucky.

37:19  Fare thee well, Azrael.  It's nice that in 2455 we still have white guys whose lives were changed forever by The Marshall Mathers LP.

38:52  Beat his head against the nearest wall?  How can Jason X hope to have any drive when the kills are so pedestrian?

41:22  The Brooklyn Brawler is in his cubby, fiddling with some gadgetry, as his earbuds vibrate with the classic sounds of OMD.  Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark?  Nah--Oblivious Motherfuckers Die.

43:37  I like it when Jason's victims go out en masse.  Sure, picking 'em off one by one is truer to the spirit of the series, but it also stretches out the running time of the film.  Which is not at all bueno.  I'm only 43 minutes in, and already I've lost all feeling in the left side of my body.

45:43  Apologies to the most ungracious Oscar loser of all time.  This Brodski character is actually more visually reminiscent of Seal minus the unfortunate facial scarring.  He's also the leader of an elite squadron of well-armed blah blah y'all gonna die.

46:09  "What's his condition?"  Um...hmm.  Is "impaled" a condition?

47:40  So much blood.  You know what would have greatly improved the final episode of True Blood?  If they'd shown Sookie's husband, and it turned out to be Tommy Wiseau.  And he had a single line of dialogue.  You know what it would have been, too.

48:03  Some schmuck goes all "Reb Brown in the jungle" on Jason, a plan of attack that boasts a similar rate of effectiveness as using vaseline as suntan lotion.

49:51  Seal L. Jackson not only gets killed, he makes sure to go out on a shitty joke just before he breathes his very last.  I guess since Jason is unable to toss off ripostes of his own, the onus is placed on the victims.  Sure, the grunts are all dead, but the groans have never been more alive!

51:42  And there goes the pilot.  This is my first time ever watching Jason X, yet it's my tenth time seeing this movie.

52:04  As there is no one at the controls, the Apache's plan to dock on the Solaris is up the shittest of creeks.  The two vessels crash into one another, and terrible special effects ensue.

55:31  DMX as Jason as the Kool-Aid Man!  "Y'all gon' make me lose my mind!  OH YEAH!"

55:54  Android KM-14 is like the short dude in the white suit who just stands there as warring mob factions do battle.  Sure, he ain't done shit yet.  But he will.  And it will be quality.

56:36  Machete retrieval.  Hell come soon.

1:00:44  Well-lit walkways, aw yeah.  I wanna see some corpses flying over the railing of those bitches, and soon.

1:01:20  Jason vs. 007 would be the bouncing tits.  Especially if Jason set up a Scaramanga-style funhouse maze of murder.  Maze.  Of.  Murder.  Mom.  Mom?  Mooooom!

1:01:50  Holy crap, Seal is still with us!?

1:03:17  Jason must resent his muteness after decapitations.  "Looks like you won't be heading home after all."

1:04:16  Death by panic attack, eh?  Well, at least Kinsa died as she lived--hopeless and hysterical.

1:05:35  KM-14 is ready to take on Jason, now that Tsunaron "gave 'er an upload."  Dude, ew.  Everyone wants to bang the new and improved android, even Jason, whose penis surely by now is but a two-inch long strip of rotted flesh dangling between his legs.

1:05:40  KM-14 2.0 speaks her first words.  Lamentably, they are not "Tell me about it, stud."

1:05:44  Jason vs. Robobitch.  I can dig it.  I can dig a grave for these hoary zingers, too.  The first Jason flicks had a dearth of trailer-made one-liners and a wealth of gnarly gore.  That is why I love them.  Or at least like 'em a good deal.

1:06:42  One does not kill Jason Voorhees.  One merely causes Jason Voorhees to move backwards, slowly.

1:08:11 An arm, a leg, and now Jason's head is toast!  What weapon is she packing anyway, a pumpkin gun?

1:09:50  Jason's dead--naw, for real this time--and the Apache's remaining crew sends off an SOS.  This Jessica chick sets women back ten years with every vacant sentence that escapes her dumb mouth.

1:13:15  The futzy medical station that brought Rowan back to life now works the same miracle on Jason.  CYBORG JASON!  (I feel like "Guilford Fall" by Fugazi should be playing right now.)  He even has body armor, because if there's one thing an invincible freak needs, it's body armor.  He busts through on some "I should be dead!  Now you're gonna be!" steez, and proceeds to knock KM-14's head clean off her shoulders. 

1:17:24  Whiny bitch is about to die, and all she can say is, "This sucks on so many levels!"  Who would say that while staring death directly in the taint?  Painfully self-aware scriptwriters and who else?

1:17:30  And yes, those were the last words Jessica spoke before her flesh was sliced to ribbons.

1:21:29  Tsunaron has a eureka! moment, creating a simulated Crystal Lake for Jason to frolic 'round.  A pair of bubbly teen girls are on hand to lure Jason with promises of drugged-out sex and sex-ed out drugs.  They even proclaim, "We love premarital sex!"  Of course they wind up dead.  In a sense.

1:22:05  Kane Hodder's heavy breathing is without peer in the (non-porn) film industry.

1:22:23  Brilliant plan gone awry.  This I could not have foreseen even if permitted a fortnight worth of consideration!

1:25:00  Help is here!  But while Rowan, Tsunaron and the remains of KM-14 are clambering aboard a rescue shuttle, Jason and Brodski are still on the Apache.  We don't actually get to witness this ostensibly epic showdown between two men who steadfastly refuse to die despite the best efforts of mice and men.

1:25:45  I shan't bitch too much, however, because when the Apache explodes, and Cyborg Jason flies toward the rescue shuttle containing Rowan and Tsunaron, I let out the kind of laughter usually reserved for video clips of a large dog knocking over a small child.

1:25:48  And then Brodski sideswipes Jason like an eighteen-wheeler smashing into a Prius!  Nothing about that makes any gravitational sense, but it's a Jason movie.  The pair hurtle towards Earth, disintegrating upon re-entry into the atmosphere.  Pyrrhic victory fer sure, Brodksi.

1:27:04  Two teens sitting by the lake.  Two hearts.  Two souls.  One...holy shit, what's that?

"A shooting star.  Make a wish."

"It landed in the lake."

"Let's go check it out."

Jason Voorhees will return in Friday the 13th, Pt. XI:  Stupid Fucking Campers.  I will not be live-reviewing that one.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It Was My Best Birthday Ever, Charlie Brown


AIRDATE:  8/5/1997

STORY:  Pathetic.  Let's not be cute here.  Deficient of any ideas worth exploring.  The first thing the viewer sees is Linus gliding down the sidewalk on roller blades, and the first thing the viewer hears is fake block party music.  This goes on for seven minutes until Linus hears a young girl named Mimi singing "Mio Babbino Caro."  Her diaphragm is bananas.  Starstruck by her skill, he invites her to his birthday party.  She stops by, unfashionably late, hanging out of the back of a blue jalopy (who drove her to the Van Pelt residence anyway, the Riverdale gang?) and singing, as this is apparently all she can do.  After passing along a flower and a smooch, she returns to her petalled palace.  Linus is so ecstatic he begins dancing like an imbecile who needs the snot backhanded free from his nose.

Take She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown...replace Patty with Linus, ice skates with roller blades, and a heartwarming story with doltish bullshit...and you have It Was My Best Birthday Ever2

MUSIC:  David Benoit tries his best.  "Linus and Lucy" shows up, for certainly the contract called for it.  I'd love to edit the "Silver Shamrock" jingle from the third Halloween movie over the excruciating skating scenes.  4

ANIMATIONBest Birthday was the first Peanuts special to use digital ink and paint, which five years later became the norm.  The ignominy of Snoopy's ears alone brings a lump to my throat.  The sloppy edits reek so foully of the 90s that I'm sure a red ball cap actually cut this thing together.  (Kids!  Hey!  Watch!  Peanuts!  Kids!)   4

VOICES:  For further proof of how much this one sucks, the producers used two kids to do four of the main characters:  Steven Hartman handles Linus and Charlie Brown, while Jamie Cronic brings Lucy and Sally to life.  Both are decent enough (6) but Brandon Taylor's Peppermint Patty is terrible.  "Ooh, sprinkles!"  You know what rhymes with "ooh"?  2.

I give Danielle Keaton a 10 as Mimi for having her considerable talents wasted.

MY FIRST BIRTHDAY, I SMASHED MY FACE INTO THE CHOCOLATE CAKE

--And my mom took pictures.

--....

--Goddamn does this one blow chunky pudding.  It insults my cognitive and cardiac intelligence.

MY THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY, I MADE FUNERAL PLANS FOR MY FATHER

--A tie over a short-sleeved shirt?  What the hell is this Sipowicz-ness?

--



That cake falls off the table, it'll crash right through the floor.  Look at the slice on the saucer, off to your right.  Where was that cut from?  Not that cake.



It Was My Best Birthday Ever, Charlie Brown never aired on television.  I hardly think we need to call on the talents of Leroy Brown for this one.  Undistinguished, unfocused, I am deadly serious when I inform you that this abomination sits uneasily alongside It's the Pied Piper as the two biggest disgraces to the Peanuts brand.  It sucks everything a human mouth can possibly suck. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The 25 Best Snoopy Faces

Limited to the strips only, which is daunting enough of a task.  Charles Schulz worked magic with the 914.  Click on the pics for maximum enjoyment.

25.  1/23/1951

Snoopy--still in his puppy phase--concludes this delightful li'l strip with a truly pleased smile.  It's always a great feeling to have one up, after all.

24.  4/21/1951

All four panels showcase Snoopy to superb effect, but I particularly adore the third one, with Snoopy in pure "nyah-nyah" mode.

23.  11/17/1951

The exclamation point is hilarious in its superfluousness.  Have you ever seen a grumpier Gus?

22.  10/26/1953

Contentment.  As short-lived as a blink of the eyes, and every bit as vital to health. 

21.  6/18/1959

My expression after a weekend of reading Kant.

20.  1/23/1961

The opposite of a Snoopy dance--a Snoopy glare.  No fear, all loathing.  No doubt he began to viciously head-butt the ground mere seconds after his bold proclamation of rancor.

19.  1/22/1967

The Bubonic Beagle!  "Unclean!" and damn proud to play the role of leper dog.  The conventional wisdom states that the inside of a human mouth is filthier than that of a canine, but I've long been an advocate of conventional wisdom sitting down and shutting up.  If I had a choice between being bitten by either man or man's best friend, I'll (reluctantly, mind you) pick the mouth least likely to have recently been around a dead squirrel.

18.  12/13/1968

Tiger Williams?  Pussycat!  Tie Domi?  Twinkle-toes!

17.  3/9/1969

This Sunday has been featured on this blog before, as I hold it in very high esteem as one of the greatest things to ever appear in a newspaper. You could eliminate the word/thought bubbles and lose nothing.  While Snoopy is a fraught joy throughout these panels, I have to pick the very last panel as one of the best "Snoo-faces" Schulz ever drew.  Deliciously devious, and a sublime counterpoint to Charlie Brown's unsuspecting failure face.

16.  10/7/1969

Wait, did I say "devious" earlier?  That was nothing.  That was Zebra Man.  This?  Thanos:  Ears of Fate.  Run, Frieda!  Convince your fellow homo sapiens that they must adapt to their new fuzzy-eared overlords or else go the way of Panthera leo spelaea.  

15.  7/30/1971

What a fat, happy pilot!  Having set up the tent after a hard day's war, the Flying Ace is ready to relax and absorb the now-peaceful skies.  I envy him even as I yearn to tickle his dough-belly.

14.  9/3/1973

The second panel is the key here.  Look at that determination!  That is how you make telepathy work for you!  Don't blink.  Don't flinch.  Lean forward.  Concentrate so hard that every cell in your body is focused on the task at hand.

Visor optional.

13.  11/20/1978

MMM, we got some nice third and one-half wall breaking going on with this strip.  Snoopy probably kept that expression whilst biting the twine, too.

12.  12/9/1979


SQUEAK.

Cute contortions of the mouth and eyes splash the iciest of hearts with the warmest of liquid cocoa.

11.  5/3/1981

'Tis music that soothes the savage beast.  Unless it's a beagle.

Nah, 'tis music that flusters the simple mortal.  In the struggle to keep control, to elucidate our feelings, sometimes the magic fails us.  The language of the spirit comes out garbled.  Thoreau wrote, "When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe."  What to do when music itself is the foe?

10.  5/6/1981

Aw, who wouldn't be happy at seeing just a little more love in the world?  Plenty people, that's who.

9.  8/23/1981

Oh, you dog!  The enmity between squeaky-toy chasers and hairball-cougher-uppers has never produced a more lopsided battle than that between Snoopy and World War II, better known as "The Cat Next Door."  Yet, Snoopy's mischievous streak remains irrepressible...resulting in some adorable looks and deplorable decisions.

8.  9/19/1981

Yet another case in point.  I can't decide which piteous look I love more!  1981 must have been the year Charles Schulz sat at the drawing board and decided, "Let me see what I can do with this dog's face."

7.  11/24/1981

Lookit the second square.  All the li'l fella needs is a bow atop his noggin and the preciousness would be virtually intolerable.  Who would refuse Snoop the blue ribbon at a Cutest Dog competition?

6.  3/3/1982

Wide-eyed agony can be quite hilarious.  Beyond that, we have the mouth in a tight line, as though he's trying his very hardest to keep the loudest yelp ever from escaping.

5.  7/23/1983

This is Snoopy's head.  This is Snoopy's head-on.  This is Snoopy's head on drugs.  Oy vey.

4.  1/31/1984

Each panel contains a winner face, but I am definitely partial to that pleasingly toothy smile in number two.  Really makes me wish he coulda remembered the joke....

3.  8/12/1988

Rainy days leave even the best of our world feeling drained and pained.  That woeful expression in the middle is the very picture of self-pity.  The pathos is potent.  Is he right, however?  Is the beagle the breed that elicits the most emotion when seen caught in the rain?  Surely the diminutive dogs of the "toy" distinction would inspire the longest, loudest "AWWW"s.

2.  5/8/1989

Snoopy's belly-laugh is such a striking image it was eventually made into the Peanuts brand logo.

1.  11/16/1993

It's all about what you don't see.  The ear-free, crap-eatin' grin of panel three has always, and I guarantee y'all will always, light up my life.  A fresh glance, a new step for the dance, you can't be great if you won't take a chance. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back!!)


U.S. Theatrical Release Date:  5/30/1980
Director:  Bill Melendez

The fourth Peanuts big-screen feature continued in the adventurous vein of Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, but at a much slower pace.  Switching the focus from water to fire, from the American outdoors to the French indoors, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown is remembered by numerous fans as the least-impressive of the Charlie Brown movies.  (Although champions for the film certainly exist.)

Paramount Pictures seemingly wanted Race For Your Life to fail--how else to explain the lack of promotion?  Paramount Pictures seemingly wanted Bon Voyage to succeed--how else to explain scheduling the film's opening for Memorial Day weekend?  Well, the poor movie got stomped at the box office, and discovering an explanation for that is far from problematic--this was the flick it opened against.

Protracted groan here.  Paramount Pictures, you pricks.

                                             ---------------------------------------------------------

The opening moments announce loud and clear that the 76 minutes to come will not be a humorous pastiche culled from the thousands of Peanuts comic strips at the disposal of the producers.  A young blond girl sits in the candlelit room of a rain-beaten chateau, staring at an Army satchel stenciled with the name S. BROWN.  After a time, she begins to write a letter.

Sunnier skies and familiar faces follow.  The buildin' of learnin' attended faithfully by Charlie Brown and Linus is taking part in a good ol' foreign exchange program with France.  Sending off a neuroses-ridden child with a head like a bowling ball as well as a young boy who has an intense psychological dependence on a piece of blue cloth may seem like a great prank on our Gallic friends, but so it goes.  Across town, at the other elementary school, Peppermint Patty and Marcie have also been selected to visit England's favorite historical enemy.  Snoopy and Woodstock were most certainly not invited, yet make the trip anyway, occupying first class while the stupid wiener humans fly coach.

During said flight, Charlie Brown shares a letter he recently received from, coincidentally enough, France.  Someone named Violette Honfleur saw fit to write Chuck, and while normally an unsolicited missive from a lady would be cause for celebration, the contents of the letter are entirely in Violette's native language.  Fortunately for Charlie Brown, Marcie happens to speak and read French fluently.  Per an on-spot translation, Charlie Brown has been invited to stay with Violette and her uncle at the Chateau du Mal Voison--"The House of the Bad Neighbor."  Convenient, if not a bit ominous as well! 

A layover in London gives Snoopy a surplus of minutes to engage in shenanigans.  Truly, at this point, the movie can be said to begin.

Once in France, they procure a top-notch vehicle (a blue Citroen 2CV, the "deux chevaux") for travel.  I'd ask, "Where are the adult representatives from whichever school is participating in this exchange program?" but then that would suggest I don't know Peanuts very well.  And nothing could be further from the truth.

Patty and Marcie are staying with a cute and charming young boy named Pierre, who waits until after the Citroen has driven off to inform the girls that the chateau for which the fellas are headed is owned by a notoriously people-phobic summa-bish known locally as "The Baron."  Uh-oh!

It's a dark and gloomy night when the boys and the animals pull up to the imposing structure that they will be calling "home" for the length of their stay.  Or will they?  The chateau seems deserted, so the children decide to sleep in a nearby stable, as Snoopy and Woodstock keep guard.  Not long after the first snores begin to fill the air, however, both beagle and bird head off to the nearby pub.  Loyalty!

As daylight forces the boys awake, they discover that someone draped blankets over their bodies at some point during the evening.  Furthermore, possibly that very same someone set up a table with not only plates and cups, but also fresh croissants and a teapot.   Hearty!

Discombobulation aside, there is school to attend.  The love-hate Peppermint Patty/Charlie Brown dynamic is always a twice-dipped treat, and here we see some great moments from the strip brought to motional life.  "Don't hassle me with your sighs, Chuck!"

That evening, Charlie Brown and Linus return to the chateau and find warm dinner and warmer bedding outside.  Again, no one is home.  Determined to not miss the residents return to the homestead, Chuck and Linus agree to take turns at guard duty.  Charlie Brown goes up first, and does a predictably poop-pie job at his post, dozing off and failing to perk up at the sight of lights shining from inside the chateau.  The Baron and young Violette can be heard speaking at the front door, bickering a bit about the young charges away in the stable.  Linus wakes up not long after the Baron's departure; seeing his friend stacking clouds, he steels himself to enter the chateau and solve the mystery once and for all.

Using only candlelight, Linus finds his way to the attic--and Violette Honfleur.  She explains that her invitation, while a gesture she now regrets, was borne only of genuine goodwill.  Her grandmother once told the young girl about a U.S. infantryman with whom she shared a brief romance during the Second World War, while he was stationed in France.  The man, named Silas Brown, stayed at that very chateau.  Although very happy together, their relationship did not survive the long distance forced between them once the young soldier received his marching papers.  Violette moved on and started a family of her own, but she never forgot a man named Silas Brown.  As for that man, he survived the war and returned to his home country to began his own brood.  Eventually, he would have a grandson named Charlie Brown. 

As Violette is riveting Linus with her tale, Snoopy and Woodstock are back at the pub, overhearing The Baron talking about the li'l bastards his niece has invited to the chateau.  His thinly-veiled threats--delivered in quite comprehensible English, mind you--do not seem to penetrate the (root) beer-drenched brains of either creature, as they continue to go about their pleasurable business, nonplussed as all hell.

Which proves too bad for Violette and Linus.  When The Baron crashes his way back into the chateau, the poor little ones are so spooked that they knock a blazing candle over, starting a fire in the attic.  Linus opens up the nearest window and begins screaming for sleepy Brown to be of some use for once in his gosh-golly blockheaded life 'cause we totally need water do not let the motherfucker burn!  Before long, Snoopy and Woodstock, as well as Peppermint Patty, Marcie and Pierre, are at the chateau.  A fire truck has been called, but Snoopy is never content to just wait around for professionals to arrive.  Retrieving an old-school hose in a nearby shed, he somehow squeezes a bit of comic relief out of a life-death situation.

Violette and Linus are able to jump to safety--but not before one of the most pathetic line readings ever to appear in a children's movie is uttered--and the firefighters roll up and save the night.

Back at Pierre's, Violette shares her grandma's story with Charlie Brown.  She explains that inspiration to write a letter struck when a friend of the Honfleur family visited America and just happened to get a haircut from Charlie Brown's dad.  Upon this friend's return to France, he told Violette's grandmother of the chance meeting.  She, in turn, told Violette the story of Silas Brown.

Touching, if not precisely scintillating, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown has for the last 34 years been "the last" Peanuts movie.  That will no longer be the case come the fall of 2015, but it will always be the last Peanuts flick to involve the almighty creative triumvirate of Schulz/Mendelson/Melendez.  My trepidation is inconsiderable, though; the source material is unimpeachable, after all.  All the producers have to do is take a good story--then take it further.  9

MUSIC:  Peppy from the very beginning, which one must expect when one is asked to have expectations of the Bogas/Munsen musical team.  Blasts of musty yellow, cracks of cookie crumbs...the soundtrack always fits tidily with the action onscreen.  A feat that, while basic enough, sometimes slipped through the composers' fingers.  Not here, though.  9

ANIMATIONBon Voyage is arguably the most artfully drawn and colored Peanuts movie; people and places spring to magnificent vitality in endlessly impressive scene after endlessly impressive scene.  The care given both the geography and the architecture exudes a warmth that makes a strange land suddenly feel like home.  While turbulent skies are ever present, the animation could hardly be described as drab or dreary10

VOICES:  Arrin Skelley and Daniel Anderson are quite adorable little representatives of their homeland.  I'd like to give them matching 8's, but Anderson's Linus loses a full point for his soul-crushing, Troll 2-worthy reading of the line "Use my blanket to catch us!" during the film's climatic sequence.

Peppery, minty Patty and marvelous Marcie haggle-her prove a more evenly-matched duo.  Patricia Patts nails the necessary blend of hoarseness and obliviousness required of all effective Patty's to earn a 9, while Casey Carlson scores likewise as the affably understated girl who dispenses sarcasm like a humidifier dispenses water vapor.

The French kids are pretty great:  Pascale De Barolet provides the pronunciations of Pierre to the tune of a 9, while Violette is vivant thanks to the vocal talents of Roseline Rubens.  I'll give her a nice, steady 8--however, Snoopy would regard me as too harsh a judge.

Sally and Lucy are left in the collective dust kicked up by their respective brothers, and while I normally wouldn't bother to give number grades to barely-there performances, Lucy's single zinger at the airport not only gives the movie title reason to use parentheses, Michelle Muller delivers it with every scintilla of malice I demand from the character of Lucy Van Pelt at her most hateful8

Very Special Mention must go to Scott Beach, who is all over the place as the adult on the mic--the barely-comprehensible English waiter, the barely-comprehensible English cabbie, the haughty English line judge and the grumpy French "Baron" himself.  Wowee zowee, dude.   Take this 10.

A MOVEABLE FEAST

--In reality, "the dog" is not considered an acceptable answer to the question "Who will be driving the car?"

--Mel Blanc appears in this movie (uncredited) via archival sound effects.  Peanuts and Looney Tunes, together at last.

--The in-flight film, The Laughing Bunnies, is basically the merry dancing bunnies from It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown without some boisterous beagle bum-rushing their circle.  Snoopy is sent into seat-pounding hysterics watching the slapstick adventures of the floppy-eared ne'er-do-well's...which was also pretty much my reaction when I saw this scene for the first time.

--This film's comedic highlight comes courtesy of the irrepressible pup himself.  Quell surprise!  His nighttime jaunt to the pub is an all-timer in the annals.  Decked out in (soft) military headgear, Snoop no longer has to race over to some puzzled kids patio and pretend--he actually is at a French pub, quaffing root beers with no sense of propriety, and taking over the dance floor moves that manage to be both graceful and goofy.

Inevitably, Snoopy lets the tunes wafting from the jukebox tear at his little heart, but soon enough the likes of "Rum and Coca-Cola" repair the damaged ventricles.  Thing is, though, he programmed the selections!  Therefore, Snoopy chose the most emotionally manipulative sequence of songs possible!  Whadda masochist!

--


One day I'll get to fly first class.  One day I'll get to rock dark glasses while waiting for the bird to take flight.  Instead of sitting coach, trying to stave off a panic attack.

--Peppermint Patty just can't see that Pierre and the Francophile Marcie are kinda crushing on each other, to the point where they even hold hands.  Patty meanwhile can only lament over how Pierre's alleged attraction to her will never, can never, be requited--"Too bad I can't give the kid a tumble."  Bonne douleur!

--Not to mention, she's ungrateful at yet another free meal!




I bet she wouldn't have that screwface rocking if they'd flown to Germany.  Breads, ham, salami, cheeses, marmalade...

--Every beverage should have a corresponding container that announces to the world precisely what is being imbibed.

--Mouth harp!

--Snoopy is a member of the Wimbledon Tennis Club.  The same hallowed grounds where Laver, Navratilova, Sampras and Williams have wowed crowds on the quest to hold the silver aloft.  How does he pay the annual membership fee?  Send twelve cans of dog food to the club every year?  Has he ever been to England before this?  If so...when?  How?  Mister Snoopy!

--Snoopy playing tennis on any court, locally-famed or globally-acclaimed, is a joy to behold.  His passion for the game far exceeds his talent for the game (I suppose you could say Snoopy is the Tony Romo of tennis?)  All it takes is a couple close calls and Snoopy becomes an implacable dervish--no one is safe, especially not the line judge.

--


Buddies help each other out.  That's what makes them buddies.

HIGHWAY TO THE DISCOMFORT ZONE

--What were the habitation plans for Charlie Brown and Linus if Chuck hadn't received Violette's letter?  Wasn't it already worked out in advance by their principal, in conjunction with his overseas counterpart and the half-full bottle of red wine that served as President of the National Assembly of France?  Charlie Brown didn't even know the letter was an invitation until they were already on the flight!

--I know, little birdie.  If I had a buck for every piece of litter emblazoned with golden arches I caught sight of during my walks 'round town, I'd be walking 'round a much better town.

--English Mixed Grill?  You mean pudding, treacle, banger bits, tomato, egg and "surrender bacon"*?

--Cab rides in England went distinctly different for me.  Not once in this film did I hear any of the kids exclaim, "I can't believe I'm about to die in this little-ass cab driven by this asylum escapee, and I didn't even get the chance to stand in front of Big Ben and say, 'I'm the real Big Benn, 'cause I got an extra 'n', bitch.'"

--Sending Charlie Brown to grab a loaf of bread, you might as well send a delirious cassowary into Bed, Bath and Beyond to pick up some dinnerware.

--Snoopy's "English accent"--as demonstrated when conversing with an asylum escapee--needs some bed rest and ginger ale.

--The brief voice-over detailing Linus's thought process as he approaches the chateau was highly unnecessary and a momentary mood-ruiner that I wouldn't expect from the Peanuts creative crew.  The pensive look on his little licorice-topped face was enough, y'know?

--When in Rome...or Paris.

--Violette informs the others that The Baron was so shaken by the harrowing experience at the chateau he has vowed to be friendlier and treat people better.  Frankly, having part of my residence set ablaze by meddling kids would only strengthen my antisocial temperament.

                                                  -----------------------------------------------------

More fun than funny, I would rank Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown fourth of all Peanuts films.  While there's much to enjoy for a devoted fan, there's also nothing terribly notable for the pop culture crowd, and I wouldn't be surprised if for some idiots, Francophobia plays a role in their distaste for the movie. 

Will the upcoming Peanuts surpass it?  Anything is possible.  I just hope the film is enjoyable and does decent box office.  A quick look at IMDB shows that if nothing else, it has a fighting chance:

Peanuts--U.S. Release 11/6/2015
Star Wars Ep. VII--U.S. Release 12/18/2015


*So-called because it's been sliced from the part of the pig that gave up first.