December 18, 2008

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)

As many parents know, kids can get on “kicks” of things they like or discover. These kicks come fast and hard, and leave just as abruptly. For example: playing nothing but one game, eating only one food, watching only one TV show or movie, or focusing on a favorite character.

Dash has been on a Charlie Brown kick lately – renting multiple Peanuts books from the library, playing the song “Snoopy’s Christmas” on infinite repeat, and absorbing the “big 3” Charlie Brown specials (Great Pumpkin, Thanksgiving, Christmas).

So to fuel his interest in all things “Chuck,” I rented one of my favorite movies as a kid: 1977’s Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. I remember bonding with my 3rd-grade teacher over this movie (she was a big Peanuts fan), and I watched it countless times on HBO.

Plot: The Peanuts gang heads to summer camp, where Charlie Brown and his friends get harassed by a group of bullies who declare themselves the team to beat at the camp games. They trounce Charlie Brown’s team in events such as potato sack racing and tug-o-war – but when it comes to the final event, a river raft race, can Charlie Brown lead his friends to victory?

There’s always a risk revisiting things you loved as a kid, only to be disappointed and have cherished childhood memories tarnished. But in revisiting Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, my memories were only enhanced by how much fun this movie is to watch.

It’s fun to pull for the Peanuts gang in their camp competitions (especially the big river raft race)…to watch the friendship of Snoopy and Woodstock (you’re not human if you don’t feel warm and fuzzy when they reunite after being separated by a thunderstorm)…to watch Charlie Brown try to step up and take charge when his nay-saying “friends” doubt his intestinal fortitude…it’s all FUN, dang it!

How’s this for a final endorsement? For several moments while watching Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, I felt like I was 8 again.

A couple of minor critiques:
• For better or worse, it provides some early lessons on why to hate (and how to fight off) bullies.
• Peppermint Patty’s constant use of secret ballots, for every obvious or minute team decision, wears thin quickly (I deduct one star for that alone).

‘70s Alert!
• The alternately funky and folksy tunes of the soundtrack.
• Dig the psychedelic closing credits, man…

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown
is not available on DVD; I rented our copy on VHS from our local library. [UPDATE 4/6/15: It's finally available on DVD! Click the ad below for details.]

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).

What did Dash think?
He told me he enjoyed it, and he offered frequent commentary during the film. A sampling…
• On the bullies and their odds of winning the river raft race: “They’re not gonna win…they’re gonna sink, I know it.”
• On Linus chasing away the bullies by snapping his blanket at them: “He knows how to do it.”
• His favorite part? “I liked when Snoopy gave Charlie Brown a ride [on his motorcycle].”

Will your kids like it?
If Dash’s approval is any indication, I would say yes. Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown is one of those rarities: an older animated film that holds up over time. Things move at a pretty steady clip, and the 76-minute running time is perfect for the attention span of younger viewers.

Will your FilmMother like it?
I’d say so. It’ll be fun for her to catch up with (and reminisce about) the Peanuts gang.

Did the voiceover guy suck on a helium balloon or something?

Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown
* Directors: Bill Melendez, Phil Roman
* Screenwriter: Charles M. Schulz
* Stars (voices): Duncan Watson, Stuart Brotman, Melanie Kohn, Liam Martin, Gail Davis
* MPAA Rating: G


Gemma said...

Great review, FilmFather! I am sad to say that I do not remember this one at all. You have a fantastic memory for things from your childhood. Glad Dash liked it. How great that the whole Charlie Brown world is still out there for him to discover!

peggy said...

This is excellent. I can see what a help this would be to people and their kids.
Great job!

Kristin said...

Love your helium balloon line. :) I really wouldn't have remembered this without your detailed review. Now I recall really liking this one as a kid, too.

Anonymous said...

I love this movie. I've shown it to our kids (younger than yours) and they both enjoy it. Simple, fun. I read some other reviews where it seems the critics try to overthink the story (snow at summer camp?), but that's just silly. It's a Peanuts movie. Enjoy it for what it is. I did.


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