You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown (1979, Phil Roman)

You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown is the unlikely tale of Charlie Brown (Arrin Skelley) participating in the school’s track meet–doing the decathlon–and doing well. It opens with Peppermint Patty (Patricia Patts) trying to sucker one of her classmates into doing the decathlon; Charlie Brown shows up just in time to go for it. It certainly seems like he’s going to mess it all up, writer Charles M. Schulz forecasts him messing it all up, but then he doesn’t. Instead, Greatest is usually surprising in the developments.

The first third is Charlie Brown training with Peppermint Patty coaching. Snoopy’s helping. Though Snoopy does better than Charlie Brown. And Marcie (Casey Carlson) is hanging around and encouraging Charlie Brown because she’s got a crush on him.

Only then Marcie becomes Charlie Brown’s back-up because Peppermint Patty realizes he can’t do it alone. It’s never explained why Peppermint Patty can’t do it, as she trains him by example. She does the decathlon events successfully, he fails. And she spends the whole meet just coaching him.

Anyway, the whole meet. The second two-thirds of Greatest are basically just the decathlon events. It’s Charlie Brown, Marcie, Snoopy in his Masked Marvel disguise (and Charlie Brown not just not recognizing Snoopy but not remembering where Snoopy went to obedience school), and some mean older, taller kid (Tim Hall). It’s the ten events, with Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty in between talking about the school’s chances. It’s dramatic, it’s funny, it’s perfectly solid stuff.

There are no standout bits because the whole thing just works. Some lovely animation, fine direction from Roman, and strong acting from the cast. Particularly Carlson and Patts. Marcie gets her own story arc, although it’s background; Carlson excels. And Schulz gets to mix that arc with some good sportspersonship messaging.

Then there’s the final “Charlie Brown” moment and it’s painfully perfect. Unlike Patts and Carlson, the animation defines Charlie Brown more than anything Skelley can do. It’s just a physical part for Charlie Brown. He’s pumping iron… Anything could happen.

Greatest isn’t the greatest but it’s inventive and sublimely executed. Nice music from Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen too.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Arrin Skelley (Charlie Brown), Patricia Patts (Peppermint Patty), Casey Carlson (Marcie), Tim Hall (Fred Fabulous), Daniel Anderson (Linus van Pelt), and Michelle Muller (Lucy van Pelt).


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