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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Bill Melendez
Cast:
Peter Robbins, Tracy Stratford, Christopher Shea, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer, Kathy Steinberg, Ann Altieri, Bill Melendez
Writing Credits:
Charles M. Schulz

Synopsis:
'Tis the season to be jolly, but Charlie Brown, feeling that the Christmas message is lost amid all the seasonal glitter, has the blues. Psychiatrist Lucy suggests a cure: get involved with the Christmas play! When our hapless hero sets out to find a Christmas tree to use as a stage prop, he unknowingly takes a step toward discovering the holiday's true meaning. The scraggly tree that thrives on a "little love" and a timely assist from Linus make the message of the season come shining through. Winner of the Emmy and Peabody awards, A Charlie Brown Christmas is digitally mastered for excellent sound and picture quality.

Bonus Feature: It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown; Snow on the ground, goodwill in the air and - good grief! - another Christmas play to perform! Have fun (and keep an eye out for a sidewalk Santa that looks suspiciously like a bearded beagle)!

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 25 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 10/6/2009

Bonus:
• “It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown” Special
• “A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas Featurette
• Bonus DVD/Digital Copy
• Trailers


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


A Charlie Brown Christmas [Blu-Ray] (1965)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 21, 2010)

And here's where it all began! Over the decades, more than 40 Peanuts TV specials and movies have appeared, but 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas was the first. It remains arguably the best and it also deserves a spot as one of the all-time great Christmas programs.

Brown takes a gentle and non-preachy look at the "real meaning" of Christmas. Even as long ago as 1965, the forces of commercialization had taken over the holiday, and this show makes a mild attempt to reclaim it for its actual purpose.

It's well-known that many folks get pretty depressed at the holidays, and Charlie Brown is no exception; the festive nature of the period shows him more clearly than ever the problems of his life. He takes on the job of director of a Christmas pageant to boost his emotions, but as with most of his undertakings, it goes awry. How he and the others deal with this is what adds the depth and spark to the production.

Brown straddles the line between silly comedy and preachy "message piece". However, it does so quite cleanly and never falls too harshly into one category. Even when we hear Linus read from the Bible, the actions fit the tone of the program and don't become excessively dull or serious.

A Charlie Brown Christmas has endured this long for one reason: it's a very solid special that offers pretty much everything you'd want from a Christmas show. All that packed into 25 minutes makes it a taut and concise gem.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C-/ Bonus B-

A Charlie Brown Christmas appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The show looked very good throughout this nice transfer.

Sharpness was solid. The show always offered good definition and delineation, without any notable signs of softness. Moiré effects and jagged edges did not present concerns, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws were minor. I witnessed some specks and marks, but I thought most of those could be attributed to weak clean-up animation from the source. The transfer still had some messy aspects, but it was usually clean.

Colors fared well. The show’s primary hues looked lively and full throughout the program. At times, the tones really popped, as the transfer reproduced the basic colors nicely. Black levels also look deep and rich, and shadow detail was just fine. Overall, this was a fine presentation given its age and origins.

Instead of the reasonably pleasing monaural track from the DVD, the Blu-ray presents a flawed Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. While a little superior to what I heard on the Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Blu-rays, the soundscape’s broadness created distractions. Music didn’t provide stereo presence; instead, the score and songs simply spread to the sides without clarity.

The same went for effects. Any localization was inconsistent and not placed well. The surrounds added bland support of the elements but nothing more, as they failed to deliver real depth to the package.

Audio quality suffered. Speech got a bit buried in the mix, but the lines remained intelligible and fairly natural. Music seemed somewhat flat and muddy, and effects lacked spice. There was nothing wrong with the original monaural soundtrack; this attempt to “update” the audio just made it worse.

How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to those of the 2008 Deluxe Edition? Picture improved, as the Blu-ray looked tighter and more dynamic; it didn’t blow away its predecessor, but it offered more pleasing visuals.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the audio went down in quality. I didn’t care for the sludgy multichannel remix; while the old mono track didn’t boast great power, it seemed more natural and convincing than this mushy reworking.

Most of the same extras from the DE appear here. We open with 1992's It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, a long-delayed sequel to the 1965 original. Wisely, it doesn't attempt to emulate that classic. Instead, it takes a looser and more glib look at the holiday through a series of minor vignettes.

In essence, Again feels sort of like a bunch of comic strips cobbled together into one piece. There's no coherent plot. We find various brief stories that are stuck together in a fairly smooth manner but which don't attempt any kind of overall message or tale; one minute we see Charlie Brown as he tries to sell wreaths, the next finds Snoopy as a street corner Santa.

It's all loose and semi-random but fairly fun. Clearly the show's lack of coherence makes it less memorable than the original special, but that doesn't mean it's not a lot of fun. Actually, Again may be one of the more amusing of the Peanuts specials, which surprises me given its recent vintage. Peanuts wasn’t very funny for the last decade or two, and I didn't expect much from a 1992 offering.

Despite that possibility, It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown functions as a nice complement to the earlier classic. It offers a fun experience that seems rewatchable and clever. The show probably would function best as a "warm-up" to A Charlie Brown Christmas, so you may want to view it first if you decide to take in both during one sitting.

Next we find a 15-minute and 58-second featurette entitled A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It provides remarks from producer Lee Mendelson, Peanuts historian Scott McGuire, director/animator Bill Melendez, Charles Schulz’s wife Jeannie, former network executive Fred Silverman, and animation writer/historian Mark Evanier. “Miracle” looks at how Peanuts made the leap from the newspaper page to the TV screen, aspects of the special’s development, music, cast and performances, animation and character design, missing scenes and controversies, the network’s initial opinion of the show, and its reception and legacy.

Expect a good overview of Christmas here. The featurette’s brevity is an issue, as it flies through the production too quickly; I’d like to hear a lot more, and it’s too bad none of the original child actors pop up here. Nonetheless, we learn a lot about the special in this informative and engaging piece.

A few ads open the disc. We get promos for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and Charlie and Lola: How Many Minutes Before Christmas?. The platter also provides a clip for Classic Christmas Favorites.

A second disc provides a standard DVD Version of Christmas along with a digital copy of the show. Both add flexibility for the viewer.

The Blu-ray does omit one extra from the 2008 DE DVD: a bonus CD. That platter provided a “sampler” of Vince Guaraldi’s music. Dedicated fans probably already owned Guaraldi CDs anyway, but it’s still too bad more casual admirers don’t get this piece.

While I also liked the It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown disc, this package probably offers the best of Peanuts shows. A Charlie Brown Christmas remains a classic after more than 40 years. Picture was very good, and I like the supplements, but the lackluster 5.1 remix offers audio inferior to the original monaural track. Even with the visual improvements found here, the old DVD remains the most satisfying incarnation of Christmas simply because of its superior sound.

To rate this film, visit the original review of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS

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