Charlie Brown can’t seem to win. Whether it is baseball, kicking the football or flying a kite, he always seems to fail. In this DVD release, we see him try his hand at motocross and the Junior Olympics. Believe it or not, he actually wins one of these events!
You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown offers two films including the title feature, which originally aired in 1975. The second feature on the DVD is You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown, which originally aired in 1979.
You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown introduces the kids to the new sport of motocross, “which is sweeping the nation.” The cartoon offers the same old standbys, such as Woodstock showing up Snoopy (in a game of tennis), Peppermint Patty mistaking Snoopy for a real boy and Lucy pulling the football away as Charlie Brown races to kick it. In much the same nature as the Christmas special, the motor bike Charlie Brown can afford is a weak, broken down bike. They also pay homage to the Great Pumpkin, as Linus creates a new helmet for Charlie out of a pumpkin.
The problem I have always had with Charlie Brown cartoons is that our title character is a lonely boy who never wins and never succeeds at anything. This cartoon also adds another effect that seems out of place in a ‘toon for kids. When we start the film, Snoopy is playing tennis against an unseen competitor and winning, while appearing very happy. When he loses the match, he loses his temper and breaks his racket, throwing a tantrum. Is this really a lesson for kids? I have never believed Charlie Brown cartoons were made for children and the lessons taught here are poorly conceived.
That is not to say there is no place for Charlie Brown in today’s world. The slapstick involved in Snoopy’s tennis match is fun to watch, more similar an Abbott and Costello short than a Charlie Brown cartoon. There are also some cute small jokes, such as when Charlie Brown and Snoopy wipe out and they end up sending Charlie to the vet and Snoopy to the real hospital. As Snoopy is in the hospital, he is reading “Playdog.” Stuff like this makes the cartoon a fun watch, and the fact that it pays more attention to Snoopy, who enters the motocross as The Masked Marvel, than Charlie Brown is a good thing.
There is a slight twist at the end of this short, as Charlie Brown wins the race, thanks in part to his bike being too slow to get stuck in the mud like everyone else. Lucy even mentions the world must be coming to an end, but then Charlie Brown’s bad luck returns as the grand prize for winning is five free haircuts. Since he is bald and his dad is a barber, his first big win didn’t earn him anything. To add insult to injury, we finish with a baseball game where Charlie Brown remains a loser.
You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown introduces the kids to the Junior Olympics. None of the kid’s wants to participate in the Decathlon, because there is too many events to participate in. Charlie Brown walks in and Lucy tells him to do it because he could be the “next Bruce Jenner.” Of course, that means we get to see how poor of shape Charlie Brown is in the process, mainly putting Snoopy next to him to contrast Snoopy’s enthusiasm to Brown’s lackluster conditioning.
The race ends up pitting Charlie Brown against Marcie (also representing Charlie’s school), Freddie Fabulous from Freemont and the Masked Marvel (Snoopy from The Ace Obedience School). During the first race, Charlie came in last but still earned good points. Going into the last event, Charlie had moved into first place, but of course he blows everything by dreaming of fame and fortune, thereby closing his eyes and running off the track and out of contention. The school still ends up winning because The Masked Marvel and the arrogant Freddie Fabulous got into a fight and Marcie came in first. At least Charlie Brown tried.
I guess that’s not a bad way of thinking, even if you don’t win, it’s better to have given it your best try. At the end of the day, Charlie Brown remains an icon. I complain a lot about Charlie Brown cartoons, but it should be noted he represented Charles Shultz’s painful formative years. Charlie Brown’s main characteristic is his persistence to try his best regardless of past failures against all odds. He loses every ballgame but continues playing baseball; he can never fly a kite but continues trying to do so; he always misses the football, but continuously tries to kick it. Charlie Brown is a cartoon for kids who always come in last, because it teaches them to continue to try. This might be the Charlie Brown DVD that shows this admirable trait the best, and that puts it slightly above the rest.
Dust Yourself Off and Pick Yourself Up, Charlie Brown (11:35) – Craig Shultz, the son of Charles Shultz, mentions how his dad played sports a lot as a kid. The feature talks about how sports played a huge role in the cartoon strips. It was Craig’s competing in motocross that led to its inclusion into the comic strip and later into this cartoon.