Snoopy, Come Home (1972, Bill Melendez)

Snoopy, Come Home’s parts are better than their sum. The film’s a number of vignettes, usually set to music, sometimes with songs. Sometimes there’s connective material between the vignettes, sometimes the circus shows up, and it’s time for a new scene. Also, sometimes, the vignettes have a rough cut between them. Not too rough, there’s a fade-out and a fade-in, but there’s no attempt to transition between them. Usually when the action cuts between Snoopy and Charlie Brown. As the title indicates, Snoopy has left home, and Charlie Brown wants him to come home. So the action cuts between Snoopy and Woodstock on adventures and Charlie Brown whining.

I guess it would be hard to find the right transition music for whining.

Though Charlie Brown does get a song to himself late in the movie, which is effective, but also entirely changes what the movie’s about. Sort of. The third act has a couple surprise turns, narratively speaking, and the Charlie Brown song fits one of those turns but because the film’s pushing hard to make it work. It’s a stretch, though it comes right after (and refers to) an absolutely fantastic, out-of-nowhere scene. About halfway through Come Home, director Melendez starts doing these phenomenal sequences occasionally—a hallucinogenic astral dream, for example—and they’re outstanding. The second big sequence, that third act one, it’s completely different than the dream sequence, instead relying on the characters. Though, specifically, the visuals they can all create. Come Home’s always very visual, for better or worse.

The worse is how often Charlie Brown and Snoopy use their comic strip expressions, which the film uses more in the first half than the second. The expressions are deadpan, reminding the viewer it’s an adaptation of the comic strip, which kills the momentum a little. At least until the expressions change. It’s a strange device, especially since Come Home shows off a bunch of expressions on Snoopy from multiple, not-comic-strip angles too. Come Home’s got innumerable visual flexes; they just sometimes come with distracting music.

The film runs eighty minutes, with the first twenty building to the inciting incident. Snoopy’s fed up with “No Dogs Allowed” places getting in the way of his good time. Every time Snoopy comes across such a location, there’s an accompanying song sung by Thurl Ravenscroft. It’s not a great song; it does pay off in the end, but it’s not great.

The film’s best song is easily Linda Ercoli’s one, which accompanies Ercole’s character tormenting her new pets, Snoopy and Woodstock. They went to her for help, and she just couldn’t wait to hug them and squeeze them. The duo’s just passing through; Snoopy gets a letter from his former owner, a little girl named Lila (voiced by Johanna Baer); she’s sick and in the hospital and would love a visit. So, peeved at the no dog zones as well as Charlie Brown being a jerk lately, Snoopy goes to visit her, Woodstock in tow. The incident at Ercoli’s is just one of their adventures along the way.

Performance-wise, Come Home’s got a couple significant problems. Chad Webber’s rarely good as Charlie Brown, and Baer’s usually bad as Lila. They do the most talking—both pleading their cases with Snoopy. The resulting turmoil gets the film into the third act with a firm footing and enables Melendez to mix style and narrative better. Though it gets rocky because the third act goes on way too long. Also, it’s rushed. Never a good combination.

Oddly, the charming end credits help pull Snoopy, Come Home around at the last minute; they last-minute find some humor they lost in the first act.

Besides Webber and Baer, the voice acting’s good; Robin Kohn and Stephen Shea, as Lucy and Linus, respectively, are really good. Kohn gets more range, including some good laughs.

Lovely animation, good music (Ron Ralke); it’s technically solid. Snoopy, Come Home’s fine. It’s got the chops to be better but just makes some hampering choices along the way and leans into them way too hard.

But when Melendez hits, he hits hard.

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