Charlie Brown's All Stars! (1966, Bill Melendez)

Despite being all about baseball–specifically baseball games–“Charlie Brown’s All Stars!” barely has any logic to how its baseball works. It’s summertime and Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) loses the kids’ first game of baseball for them. Although, really, no one else on the team is any good, but he’s the only one who wants to play so it’s all his fault.

He’s able to convince them to come back and play again because the hardware shop owner is willing to get them uniforms and back the team in the Little League. Only it turns out Little League teams can’t have dogs or girls on them, in that order, so Charlie Brown decides to lie about the uniforms and just inspire everyone to play well.

And they do. Probably. There’s not just no adults in “All Stars,” none of the other team appears either. Even during the baseball games. Even during the baseball game where it’d be real important for them to show up so there was some logic about how the kids are playing (and losing) the games. But they get enough hits to stay competitive in the game, though the other team only has two runs at the bottom of the ninth.

For as much as “All Stars” goes on about baseball, it never seems like writer Charles M. Schulz particularly cares about it, which is fine for comic strips, but not really for a narrative. Especially not one about baseball.

The baseball story line–which has Charlie Brown making a tough, but moral decision (though it’s not really a tough decision and the cartoon barely pretends it to be)–kind of finishes before the end, when Schulz goes for a different laugh and fumbles it. Lots of fumbles in the script. You can see the scene as a four panel comic strip and it just does not translate.

There are a handful of decent jokes–always involving Christopher Shea (as Linus) though he’s in the last one and it bombs–and there’s some cute animation. All the kids nonsensically have skateboards, if only so they can skateboard away from Charlie Brown and his promise of baseball. The Pigpen jokes all fall particularly flat and Sally’s one scene trying to tempt Linus in her bikini is… really awkward and sort of concerning. It’s a short scene though (even if the failing joke gets drug out), which is probably for the best.

Most of the performances are uneven. Shea’s best. Robbins’s rocky. Sally Dryer has more bad line readings than good as Lucy. Glenn Mendelson’s flat as Schroeder, who’s not in it enough for it to matter. But Karen Mendelson (as Violet) and Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter (as Shermy) are probably the most consistently good. All of Ann Altieri’s Freida moments–usually about her curly hair–flop except one.

“All Stars” just don’t have any narrative flow. It’s not rushed, but it’s kind of aimless. Melendez’s direction doesn’t have any personality–except avoiding the particulars of the baseball game. Sadly Vince Guaraldi’s score is minimal. More music might’ve helped.

Nothing really works right in “All Stars.” It’s too bad, but nothing really works from the start so it’s not particularly surprising.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Sally Dryer (Lucy), Christopher Shea (Linus), Karen Mendelson (Violet), Glenn Mendelson (Schroeder), Cathy Steinberg (Sally), Geoffrey Ornstein (Pigpen), Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter (Shermy), Ann Altieri (Freida), and Lynn Vanderlip (Patty).


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