Two things stick out in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. First, Charlie Brown is a bit of a drag. Charles M. Schulz, writing the script, initially sets up Charlie Brown as the Scrooge of “Christmas”. While that condition changes a little–eventually, Charlie Brown is the victim of the rest of the Peanuts gang–it’s a disconcerting opening.
Schulz is trying to make a statement about commercialism and Christmas, but it never connects.
The other thing about “Christmas” is Melendez’s direction. It’s often terrible, which is surprising. The beginning is reasonably sublime, set to Vince Guaraldi’s lovely score, but then the action moves inside and Melendez loses touch. He has these terrible close-ups.
There are some nice touches–Linus on the run from Sally, Lucy and Schroeder contending with Snoopy–but “Christmas” is undercooked.
Schulz works towards a point, but doesn’t find one, and Melendez similarly flounders.
It’s rather disappointing.
Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.
Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Tracy Stratford (Lucy Van Pelt), Kathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Chris Doran (Schroeder / Shermy), Geoffrey Ornstein (Pig-Pen), Sally Dryer (Violet), Ann Altieri (Freida), Karen Mendelson (Patty) and Bill Melendez (Snoopy).