Friday, November 6, 2015

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown

Premiered August 24, 1977.
Charlie Brown:I decided to come to camp, because I've never been much of a person.  I thought maybe coming to camp would help me grow up, and maybe make me into a leader.  I could use leadership qualities.
Peppermint Patty:You could say that again, Chuck.  You couldn't lead a dog on a leash.

Charlie Brown (Duncan Watson) and friends visit Camp Remote, located in the mountains.

As soon as they arrive, they're harassed by three bullies (Kirk Jue, Jordan Warren and Tom Muller)  and their very aggressive cat named Brutus (Jackson Beck).

The bullies tell Chuck and Sally that they run the camp and that Charlie Brown better not step out of line.  Brutus goes after Snoopy and Woodstock (both voiced by Bill Melendez) and gives them a scare.  Thankfully, Linus (Liam Martin) intervenes with his blanket and scares the bullies away.

"Fastest blanket in the West!"
Later on, Chuck tells Peppermint Patty (Stuart Brotman) that he feels like he's never done anything and that he decided to go to camp because it will help him grow up and possibly teach him how to be a leader.

The boys and girls stay in separate tents.  Charlie Brown lodges in a tent with Franklin (Joseph Biter), Schroeder (Greg Felton) and Linus.

The girls' tent consists of Peppermint Patty, Lucy (Melanie Kohn), Marcie (Jimmy Ahrens) and Sally (Gail Davis).  Peppermint Patty decides that every decision of the tent will be made democratically via secret ballots.  But Peppermint Patty ends up getting her way no matter how the others vote.

The kids face off in several competitions.

First up is Tug Of War.  Charlie Brown's team faces the bullies. 

Unfortunately for Chuck, the Bullies win by cheating.

During the potato sack race, Peppermint Patty's squad is matched against the bullies. 

Once again the bullies cheat their way to victory.  They use sacks that have holes in the bottom!

The final contest is the raft river race.

The bullies have won the previous two years and are confident they'll win again.  Their "raft" has a motor, radar and sonar.  To make matters worse, they inflate it by stealing air from the other kids' rafts.  But shortly into the race, the bullies crash into a dock!  This give the other kids a chance to take the lead.

Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty's teams are doing well, but not for long.  The bullies move a sign at a fork in the river that leads the kids into a blasting range!  Thankfully, Snoopy is able to clear their path.

Shortly after that, disaster strikes.  A vicious thunder storm wrecks their rafts.  Charlie Brown worries when he can't find Snoopy and Woodstock.

The bird and the beagle are worried about each other, since they're separated during the wreck.

Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty's teams put the race aside and join forces to find Woodstock and Snoopy.

Will they find their animal friends?  Can one of their teams win the race and finally give the bullies their much-deserved comeuppance?

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown is Chuck's third feature film and it's the most visually striking so far.  Chuck and the gang are taken to places we've never seen in Peanuts animation before like Rocky Mountains, the desert, cattle farms and white water rapids.

Charlie Brown shows some development and self-awareness in this film, with his desire to grow up and become a leader.  While he does get called "blockhead" a few times, he does demonstrate a level of leadership we haven't seen before.

Schroeder brings his piano on the raft race.
There's a nice scene in the middle where the kids find a vacant cabin.  They dance together and sing "She'll Be Comin' 'Round The Mountain."  Maybe it's a diversion from the central story, but it's nice to see them having a good time and acting like kids.

While the other kids freak out, Charlie Brown remains level-headed.
I'll mention that very little kids might find the thunder storm scenes hard to handle, since Woodstock is put in jeopardy.  It's one of the most intense moments in any Peanuts film or special.

This movie includes some interesting pop culture references.  Snoopy's motorcycle helmet is likely meant to remind us of one worn by Peter Fonda in Easy Rider.  Peppermint Patty's raft flies the Women's Liberation flag, which is another nice touch.  

Snoopy encounters a somewhat goofy looking bear...
...who is apparently afraid of beagles!

Race For Your Life is not without faults.  The plot uses the "secret ballots" gag at least one time too many.  The bullies are never named.  Chuck and the others just call them "the bullies" or "those bullies," and the bullies never address each other by name.  Maybe they were supposed to be stand-ins for every real life bullies members of the audience have encountered?

The bullies trash the other kids' rafts!
I've said here before that I don't like to see adults in Charlie Brown cartoons.  But one presumes that there is some sort of adult supervision at Camp Remote.  Charlie Brown and the others find themselves in deadly scenarios more than once.  How could anyone allow the kids to compete in such a dangerous race?  And how could adults let the bullies' win by cheating over and over again?  In this regard, Race For Your Life reminds me of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (how could adults allow kids to risk their life in the Tri-Wizard Tournament?  But I digress).

The voice actors all well cast and "sound like" the characters they're portraying.  Duncan Watson and Stuart Brotman are especially good as Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty.  The bullies are played by Kirk Jue, Jordan Warren and Tom Muller and they REALLY make you loathe the bullies and everything they do.

Brutus, the bullies' cat is voiced by Jackson Beck.

 He was a prolific voice actor on radio and cartoons from the 1930s through the 1990s.  Beck also voiced the character Brutus on a series of Popeye cartoons.  So perhaps Brutus the cat's name is something of an inside joke.

Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen composed the music for this movie and it's a very diverse score.  Scenes that feature Snoopy's motorcycle rides are punctuated by distorted electric guitar. 

The raft race is features bluegrass tunes.  Woodstock and Snoopy's explorations in the woods are accompanied by pastoral flute music.  Other music places the cello in the forefront.

Snoopy and Woodstock sail past the bullies.
Larry Finlayson sings the title song and another song later in the film.  Both songs were written by Bogas and Finlayson does a nice job handling vocal duties.  All in all, it's a good soundtrack.    

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown is entertaining and action packed from start to finish and its plot even allows Charlie Brown to (sort of) achieve a rare victory.  It's recommended, but the problems listed above prevent it from receiving a higher rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:

 3 Sparkys.

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