A Charlie Brown Christmas has been a holiday institution since its television debut in 1965. On the flip side, I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown started airing in 2003 and it’s already largely forgotten. Why? Well, probably because the special puts the spotlight on a little-known secondary character and leaves the core Peanuts crew in a supporting role. Equally problematic is the fact that the kids talk and act like adults but don’t maintain their inner child like they did in A Charlie Brown Christmas or the many other successful Peanuts programs.
Rerun Van Pelt, younger brother to Lucy and Linus, really wants a pet for Christmas. He pleads, begs, reasons with his family and even resorts to trying to buy Charlie Brown’s beloved Snoopy from him. But it’s all just a backdrop for Rerun’s pontifications and deep insights into the human condition. It’s almost as though Rerun is a kinder version of Family Guy’s Stewie minus the homicidal thoughts towards his mother. With Snoopy spoken for, Rerun tries to win the dog over by smothering him with affection and by being the annoying friend who just won’t leave him alone.
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown suffers from a lack of memorable moments. Although there’s a couple of cute spots with Snoopy, there’s little else that’s even remotely stands out. Rerun is a bore as a lead character. He’s also a break from tradition in a spot where tradition is demanded or, at the very least, expected. A Charlie Brown Christmas continues to draw viewers more than four decades later because it provides viewers with a reason to not only watch it over and over, but pass it down to their children as well. This newer special doesn’t come close to doing the same.
I did enjoy Vince Guaraldi and David Benoit’s backdrop soundtrack. It’s catchy and mellow without falling into the boring trap. Some of the gags crackled a small smile but, fair or not, my love for the animated Peanuts gang stems from the classics. To me, the first Christmas special is perfect. So why revisit it, even if not a remake? The natural impulse is going to be to compare the two and anything less than perfect is a letdown. Plus I have lots of childhood nostalgia surrounding the first from watching it with my grandparents and staying up late the night it was on. Perhaps my children might connect with this new spin, but judging by their lulled reaction, I doubt it.
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown DVD Review
The re-mastered I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown DVD has the TV special in its original full screen format with Dolby Surround Stereo audio. Additional tracks are available in Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese. Bonus features include a second made-for-TV special, Happy New Year, Charlie Brown, which originally aired in 1986. There’s also a featurette, Sibling Rivalry: Growing Up Van Pelt, that looks at the origins of the special’s protagonist, Rerun.