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Studio: Warner Home Video
Year: 1965
Cast: Peter Robbins, Tracy Stratford, Christopher Shea, Chris Doran, Geoffrey Ornstein, Karen Mendelson, Cathy Steinberg, Ann Altieri, Sally Dryer, Bill Melendez
Director: Bill Melendez
Release Date: October 13, 2009, 8:09 pm
Rating: NR for (oh, you know perfectly well)
Run Time: 00h:25m:11s

"Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know." - Lucy (Tracy Stratford)

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Of all the releases of A Charlie Brown Christmas, this one's the Charlie Browniest. Of course. It is in HD.

Movie Grade: A

DVD Grade: A-

What's left to say about A Charlie Brown Christmas? Our own Jeff Ulmer certainly said plenty in his review of the original DVD released all those years ago; declared a bona fide classic almost before the end of its premiere airing in 1965, it has become a holiday tradition, still shown every December even in the age of DVD and digital viewing on-demand. Simply put, it wouldn't be Christmas without Charlie Brown.

Like many seasonal traditions, this one has been experienced so many times that I've lost the ability to view it with any sort of perspective; it looms larger in mind and memory than as a tangible 25-minute TV special. But I think I'm safe in saying that it deserves its long life and will continue to live on. The genius of Charles M. Schulz was to create children who looked like them but didn't conform to an average adult's idea of what a child is. The Peanuts kids carry around all the baggage, self-doubt, and insecurity of, well, real people, which makes them instantly relatable, recognizable, and enduring. As we watch sad sack Charlie Brown mourn the commercialization of the holiday, we too long for how things used to be, but probably never were, at least, not so long as any of us can remember. A Charlie Brown Christmas helps keep those dreams alive, though. Merry Christmas, CB. Loo-loo-loo-loo-loo-loo-loo-loo.

The DVD: You might wonder at the wisdom of releasing a low-budget 45-year-old TV special on the newest digital format, but this show really does benefit from HD resolution. The image has been remastered but not perfected; the increased clarity reveals strong colors and crisp lines, but also flaws in the original animation (and, sadly, some dirt and debris on the print). As it should, print flaws aside—a classic of this magnitude hardly requires modern digital tweaks. Take, for instance, the improved 5.1 audio mix—nice, but wholly unnecessary. The original mono track would have been a welcome inclusion.

So is it worth the upgrade? This release makes it easy to judge for yourself (though, I suppose, only after the fact) with the addition of a standard DVD copy (along with an offer for a free digital download, so you'll be sure to never be without access to some holiday whimsy, I guess). A direct comparison to the admittedly very nice DVD (which was just re-released last year in a "deluxe remastered edition") reveals crisper lines, more vibrant color, and deeper blacks. It's a noticeable upgrade, but the $30 asking price is also a lot considering the length of the feature.

True, there are some extras, ported over from the DVD, including a 16-minute making of featurette that explores the film's production and status as a perennial classic. Bonus special It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown is cute but hardly as essential as the original (produced in 1992, it was originally offered on video at gas stations, which doesn't really tell you anything but certainly leaves an impression). It's presented in HD and 5.1 too, however, which is nice.

Joel Cunningham October 13, 2009, 8:09 pm