(1972) dir. Bill Melendez
The kids enjoyed A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969) so much that quick on the list of films to watch together was Snoopy Come Home, the second of four feature films to star the Peanuts gang. I’d strongly remembered Snoopy Come Home from my childhood, remembering it to be one of those children’s films that made me feel very melancholy. But I’d remembered liking it, too.
This viewing featured a surprise or two. For one thing, it’s much more of a “musical” than other Peanuts films and shows, with several musical numbers, oddly enough written by the Sherman brothers, Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, most recently recognized in a documentary from this year that I have yet to see called The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (2009), which is said to be quite good. I’d personally stumbled on them when I was listening to a collection of music from Disney films, television shows, and even Disneyland amusement park, noting that a huge number of the best songs were penned by “Sherman/Sherman”. Little did I know that they had also created the music for Snoopy Come Home, though I’ve often found much of the music quite hummable, from the title song to “Me and You” or even the resonant “No Dogs Allowed”.
In reality, the film is quite a slow one, heaped in the tone of loneliness and loss. The story follows Snoopy as he gets a note from his original owner Lila, a little girl in a hospital, who wants him to come visit. She has one of those classically never named illnesses that can be magically cured by a visit from a meaningful friend. Lila wants Snoopy to come back with her to her house and Snoopy is torn between his alliegences to the Peanuts gang and the little girl who first took him home.
We have many shots of Lila in her hospital bed and gown, wistfully looking out the window as the music gently plays tones of sad or thoughtful airs. But more significantly, we have Charlie Brown, who is abandoned by Snoopy, miserable and not understanding what is happening. And this is a theme throughout the story of the film, in between snippets of Snoopy and Woodstock’s hike to the hospital and various misadventures. Even Snoopy and Woodstocks adventures are ones of rejection, misanthropy, and fumbling. When they meet the unnamed girl who takes them in as strays and manhandles them brutally in her clumsy form of affection, she is a character who is highly unlikeable but in reality lonely herself. You want the two guys to escape but she ends up abandoned as well.
The kids enjoyed it, but less so than A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which was far more funny and had a far less pervassive tone of sadness about it. It was kind of funny because through the late part of the film where it looks like Snoopy will indeed leave them and everyone is sad and crying, Clara was laughing in a way that sounded like crying, though she said that she “couldn’t stop laughing” until the very end when everything works out, in which she told me that she “was so happy she thought she would cry”. Felix was a bit more unmoved by it all.
I have to say, it doesn’t effect me the way that it had in the past, but the familiarity of the music and the story do resonate in memories and a sense of melancholy. It’s not perhaps as “good” a film, with its limited animation style, but it’s one of the more poignant of kids films, something that recalls some aspects of childhood, dealing with themes of abandonment, loneliness and loss. I’ve always thought that Charles M. Schulz tapped into a complex psychology with the characters he developed and their emotional landscapes. This is perhaps the cinematic peak of that, though I think that the television shows themselves, for what they were, were the most successful of the translation from strip to animation.