Tuesday, April 11, 2017

1980 Week: Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!)

The last theatrical feature made during the original heyday of animated projects based upon Charles M. Shulz’s beloved Peanuts franchise, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!) finds the franchise’s key creative team at low ebb. Schulz, who wrote and produced the picture, fails to deliver either a memorable narrative or strong jokes, and codirector Bill Melendez (a Peanuts veteran who shared helming chores on this project with Phil Roman) fails to provide the imaginative visual flourishes that make the deliberately crude artistic style of early Peanuts cartoons so charming. In perhaps the most telling sign of creative fatigue, the storytellers feature adult characters onscreen, complete with dialogue, breaking the Peanuts spell of a universe created by and for children. Even Snoopy makes a poor showing here. While the forever-unlucky title character endures an eventful trip through Europe, his brilliant dog, Snoopy, acts like a menace, causing traffic accidents and dodging guard duty so he can slip off to a roadside bar for stiff drinks. (Snoopy favors root beer, but the effect is the same.) Whereas previous Peanuts movies have solid stories with bittersweet emotional payoffs, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown feels trivial. Charlie Brown, Linus, Marcy, and Peppermint Patty venture to Europe as exchange students, taking Snoopy and his avian sidekick, Woodstock, along for the ride. In France, Charlie Brown visits a remote estate because he received a cryptic invitation, only to uncover a mystery with connections to his family. Neither the investigation nor the revelation it triggers is especially interesting. The movie also suffers for the inclusion of a lot more slapstick violence than usual; while the gags are gentle by normal standards, they seem harsh within the Peanuts sphere. After this disappointing film was released, Charlie Brown and the gang returned to their comfort zone of periodic TV specials until the release of a new, CGI-rendered feature, The Peanuts Movie, in 2015.

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!): LAME


Guy Callaway said...

Charlie Brown was getting too old for his part by this point. Good grief, he was bald!

erdmann said...

While outside the purview of this blog, I would mention for the sake of completeness that the 1983 TV special What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? is an epilogue to this film. It suffers from some of the same problems as the movie (Adults on screen and with dialogue? Good Grief!), but it seems to be held in higher regard, no doubt because of the obviously heartfelt intent to honor America's fallen troops. It garnered three Emmy nominations and won a Peabody Award the following year.

top_cat_james said...

Pity poor Peppermint Patty here, for her personality change from lovably brash to obnoxious and delusional contributes to the dourness of the proceedings. She's so thoroughly rude, unpleasant and unfunny, one wonders why her travel mates don't ditch her someplace.

Her inclusion on the trip also begs the question as to how a student with a D-minus average (long established in the newspaper strip) is somehow eligible to join a program usually reserved for honor students. Could have been explained by a simple throwaway line by Marcie: "The faculty just wanted rid of her for a few months", but Schulz' lazy screenplay can't be bothered with such inconsistencies.