Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002)

Here's a useless bit of trivia: Valentine's Day is the only holiday other than Christmas to have more than one Peanuts special based around it. I can understand why, as there's a lot of potential to be had there, given Charlie Brown's longing for the Little Red-Haired Girl and his insecurity about talking to her, Lucy's unwanted affection towards Schroeder, and Sally aggravating Linus to no end, but, seriously, wouldn't you like to see some more Halloween-oriented specials aside from The Great Pumpkin, or see the Peanuts gang have another go at Thanksgiving, since the one they did wasn't one of their stronger episodes? Heck, why not have them do one for the Fourth of July (there was that mini-series, This Is America, Charlie Brown, but I mean the gang actually having fun on the holiday, rather than appearing in dramatizations of historical events), or Groundhog Day (maybe have Charlie Brown or one of the characters relive the same day again and again, like the movie), or even Labor Day? In addition to Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, there were other specials where he has to deal with the trials and tribulations of love, such as You're in Love, Charlie Brown, There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown, and Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown, so did we really need another special based around Valentine's Day? These thoughts aside, I will say that, when I got around to watching this special just recently (as I didn't learn of its existence until the last couple of years), I was actually pleasantly surprised. Given how morose, melancholy, and downright sad and mean-spirited the specials with this kind of plot can be, I was expecting something along those lines, especially since this is a sort of remake of You're in Love, but instead, what I got is genuinely enjoyable to watch. As per usual, Charlie Brown isn't able to talk with the Little Red-Haired Girl (it does spend a little too much time on that, I will say), and some of the other characters get angry at him for something that wasn't truly his fault, but it's not downbeat like some of those specials I mentioned and has a really nice ending, making up for the crap he endures.

Valentine's Day is approaching and Charlie Brown, as usual, is lamenting that he's never once received a valentine and, more significantly, would like nothing more than to talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl. Of course, he doesn't have the stomach to approach her, as he's not sure if she even likes him or knows he exists ( and there's strong evidence that the latter is possibly true), and continuously makes a fool out of himself while trying to impress her: buying her a valentine only to mail it anonymously, buying her some chocolates but then opting to stand behind a tree and hold it out in midair as a means of giving it to her, attempting to wink at her but getting sent to the school nurse because the teacher thinks there's something wrong with his eye, and getting his shirt caught in a pencil sharpener. Meanwhile, he has to deal with the unrequited affections of both Peppermint Patty and Marcie, often angering them with how clueless he is about it, while Sally continues to aggravate Linus with her attempts to make him like her, referring to him as her "sweet baboo," and Lucy does the same with Schroeder, hoping that he'll send her a valentine, even though he never has before and has no intention of starting now. Ultimately, Charlie Brown attempts to ask the Little Red-Haired Girl to the school Valentine's Day dance, but ends up dialing Marcie instead and gets roped into going with both her and Peppermint Patty. Even when he's in the same building as her, it's very unlikely he'll get the chance to be with the Little Red-Haired Girl, as he wishes.

Significantly, this was the first Peanuts special produced after Charles Schulz's death (the previous special, It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown, was released the September following his death but he had been involved with it up to then) and was one of the last to be directed by Bill Melendez, who was in his mid-80's at this point and would go on to direct just four more. It was also the first one to premiere on television since 1994's You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown, and the first to be produced for ABC after CBS decided to end their involvement. Even though it was made after Schulz's death, he's still credited as both the creator and writer, meaning the story is cobbled together from various plots from the comic strip, which a lot of the specials were, or he wrote it before his death, as was the case with the later special, He's a Bully, Charlie Brown.

Even before he laments about not being able to speak with the Little Red-Haired Girl, Charlie Brown (voiced by Wesley Singerman) has to endure aggravation, as Snoopy wakes him up in the middle of the night when he suddenly gets the inspiration to write, and, when talking with Peppermint Patty, who asks him valentines, he admits he's never gotten one, irritating her and prompting her to ask why she's even talking to him in that case. At lunch at school one day, he sees the Little Red-Haired Girl and wishes he could talk to her, adding, "The amazing thing is that I know I'm the sort of person she'd like! I mean, I'm not rough or crude or anything. I may not be the greatest person who ever lived, of course, but, after all, who is? I'm just a nice sort of a guy who never gets to meet little red-haired girls." So many times, he tries to do something to get her attention, but he either misses the opportunity, loses his nerve, or does something stupid. She drops her pencil and he plans to take it to her, but Lucy takes it to her instead. He sees someone bullying her on the playground but is too afraid of getting beaten up to step in, prompting Linus to do so. He gets her a valentine and practices how he'll present it to her, thinking to himself, "Here, Little Red-Haired Girl. This is for you. It's a valentine. This is a valentine I made especially for you... Here, Little Red-Haired Girl. This is a valentine I want you to have... Here, Little Red-Haired Girl. This is a valentine to show how much I like you... Here, this valentine is for you, sweet Little Red-Haired Girl." He then says aloud, "Here, Little Red-Haired Girl. This valentine is for you, and I hope you like it as much as I like you, and...", before his nerve gives out and he mails it anonymously. Next, he goes to buy her some valentine candy, admitting to the shop owner it's for a girl who doesn't even know he exists and asks for nothing expensive, as he'll never have the nerve to give it to her. Indeed, even though he does buy it, he hides behind a tree and holds the box out from behind it, thinking she may just take it that way, admitting, "Love makes you do strange things."

Charlie Brown then starts to hope the Little Red-Haired Girl would give him a valentine and considers inviting her to go with him to the school's Valentine's Day dance. Before he does, he has Linus go over and find out if she likes him... and, overhearing their conversation, he realizes, just as he feared, that she has no idea he even exists. With that, he becomes convinced he can't talk to her, telling Linus, "Because she's something, and I'm nothing. If I were something, and she were nothing, I could talk to her. Or, if she were something, and I were something, then I could also talk to her. Or, if she were nothing, and I were nothing, then I could also talk to her. But she's something, and I'm nothing, so I can't talk to her." Later, in class, he takes Linus' advice and gives the Little Red-Haired Girl a compliment, except he yells it out loud, causing her to fall out of her seat in embarrassment. Linus tells him to be more subtle and he attempts to wink at her, only he can't get her attention and his eye appears to get stuck, prompting the teacher to send him to see the school nurse. As usual, Charlie Brown's visit with Lucy at her psychiatrist booth doesn't help at all, only it's actually his fault this time, as he complains about the possibility that he could get a valentine from the Little Red-Haired Girl, only to then realize he doesn't like her as much as he thought he did, and wonders how he would break up with her. With that, Lucy closes up her booth and starts selling valentines. She offers him one she says is really potent, but doesn't let him have it until the following Friday, as it's, "Too potent. There's a five-day waiting period." At the school the next day, Charlie Brown attempts to get the Little Red-Haired Girl's attention by walking around the room, only to get his shirt caught in the pencil sharpener. Worried she'll think he's a complete idiot, he tries to wriggle out of his shirt, but gets more caught up in it, creating a long line of kids waiting to sharpen their pencils. Later, at home, he decides to wait by the mailbox for valentines to be delivered to him, only to get caught out in the rain.

On top of his anxiety about the Little Red-Haired Girl, Charlie Brown gets caught up in Peppermint Patty and Marcie's craziness. The latter shows up at his house, telling him she's planning on sending him a valentine and asks if he likes her. Taken aback, he exclaims, "Do I what?!", prompting her to stomp off in anger, while he's just confused about what he did wrong. After that, he receives a letter that reads, "I know you like me and I like you," which excites him, as he wonders if it could be from the Little Red-Haired Girl. Unfortunately, Patty tells him it's from her, yelling, "You like me, Chuck!", after which a confused Charlie Brown mumbles, "I do?!" And, as if that weren't enough, the next night, he gets a call from Marcie, who tells him she walked over to ask if he liked her and he, again, says, "To do what?!", irking her further. Ultimately, when Charlie Brown, at Linus' behest, gets the nerve to call the Little Red-Haired Girl and ask her to the dance, he accidentally calls Marcie. He tries to explain himself but Marcie figures he meant to call Patty, who just happens to be there, and accepts his "offer" to go with him to the dance. That night, he dresses up and heads to the school, along with Snoopy, who manages to get in when Charlie Brown passes him off as a kid who thought it was a costume party. Charlie Brown tries to ask the Little Red-Haired Girl to dance, but before he can reach her, Patty and Marcie find him and force him to dance with them. By the time he gets away from them, the Little Red-Haired Girl is dancing with someone else, namely Snoopy. The next day, Patty and Linus admonish Charlie Brown for the bad date, accusing him of not being romantic and for being a bad dancer, leaving him bewildered again. Though dejected about his missed opportunity, Charlie Brown does receive a valentine at the end of the special. It's never revealed who it's from but, at the very least, someone notices him.

Throughout the cartoon, Linus (voiced by Corey Padnos) acts as Charlie Brown's one source of support and tries to encourage him to talk with the Little Red-Haired Girl. When Charlie Brown is too chicken to help her when she's getting bullied, Linus steps in and does it for him, though this only makes him feel more like a loser. When he's nervous about asking the girl to the Valentine's Day dance, he has Linus talk with her to see what she thinks of him. But, when Charlie Brown eavesdrops on the conversation, it becomes clear she has no idea who he is. Later, Linus tries to encourage him to talk to her himself, only to have to endure his speech about being nothing while she's something, on which Linus comments, "For a nothing, Charlie Brown, you're really something." His advice about complimenting her and being subtle about it only gets fouled up, so he finally encourages Charlie Brown to get her phone number, call her up, and invite her to the dance. Charlie Brown says, "I'm afraid she'd hang up on my face!", to which Linus says, "That's the beauty of calling her on the phone: one ear is not a whole face." He does get her number, and Linus stands by as he musters up the courage to call her, only for him to accidentally call Marcie instead and get roped into going to the dance with her and Peppermint Patty. At the dance, Linus tries to help Charlie Brown dance with the Little Red-Haired Girl, but that plan falls through when his two would-be dates make him dance with them, leaving her open to be taken by Snoopy. At the end of the special, Linus tries to comfort Charlie Brown, when it's revealed that he did get a valentine from someone. Linus is happy for him, telling him, "Happy Valentine's Day, Charlie Brown."

Like Charlie Brown with Marcie and Peppermint Patty, Linus also spends the entire special dealing with the unwanted affections of Sally (voiced by Nicolette Little). Throughout the story, Sally tries to get Linus to like her and plans on getting him a valentine by making one herself, initially trying to get Snoopy to come up with verses for it, only to reject what he comes up with. She's repeatedly rebuffed by Linus, as he tells her again and again he's not her "sweet baboo," and even Charlie Brown, at one point, tells her that he said that, to which she responds, "What does he know?" The funniest moment with her comes when she tells her teacher she doesn't think they should put out a box for valentines, as she doesn't think her "sweet baboo" would give her one. Offscreen, Linus yells, "I am not your sweet baboo, and how do you know I wouldn't give you a valentine if I were your sweet baboo, which I am not?!", and Sally says, "See what the problem is, ma'am?" The teacher insists they need to have a valentine box and Sally suggests that the slit on top is too small for a box of candy, meaning your sweet baboo would have to give it to you in person "elsewhere." Linus: "I'm not your sweet baboo, and you couldn't get me within a hundred miles of elsewhere." Ignoring that, she tells everyone to put their valentines into the box and she starts going through them and passing them out. When she gets to the last two, it's one for her sweet baboo and another for "the cutest of the cute." She asks for the kids in question to come up, when Linus yells, "I... WENT... HOME!" At the end, Sally shows up at Linus' house, telling Lucy that she's come to see Linus to thank him for the valentine he got her. Linus yells that he didn't get her one, to which she responds, "Don't you know sarcasm when you hear it?" And no, Sally, as usual, offers no encouragement whatsoever for her brother, telling him the Little Red-Haired Girl would probably laugh at him if he gave her a valentine and, when he talks about getting roped into going to the dance with Peppermint Patty and Marcie, she calls him wishy-washy.

Lucy (voiced by Lauren Schaffel) is first seen critiquing Snoopy's attempts at writing something romantic. She tells him the opening, "Dear Sweetheart," is too impersonal, so he responds by writing, "Dear Angel Food Cake, with seven-minute frosting," which irks her. She suggests he write something along the lines of what she just read in a romance novel, where the guy said, "You are breath, and bread, and water to me," which he does: "'You are breath, and bread, and water to me,' he said... 'And chocolate chip cookies.'" Flabbergasted at this, Lucy then reads the next thing he writes: "Dear Sweetheart, I miss you morning, noon, and night." She tells Snoopy it's too vague, so he gets more specific: "I miss you at 8:15, 11:45, and 9:36." She gets so frustrated with that that she rips the paper in half and storms off. After that, Lucy does what she always does: adds to Charlie Brown's misery and annoys Schroeder to no end. When Charlie Brown attempts to return the Little Red-Haired Girl's dropped pencil, she does it for him; she rants at him when he mentions not being able to talk to the girl because of her pretty face, noting that he can talk to her just fine (a moment taken directly from You're in Love, Charlie Brown; and when he goes to her psychiatric booth and goes on about what would happen if the girl gave him a valentine, only for him to discover he doesn't like her as much as he thinks and would have to break up with her, Lucy incredulously exclaims, "You're worried about leaving someone you haven't even met?!" That's when she closes up her booth and starts selling valentines instead, offering Charlie Brown a very "potent" one, only to say there's a five-day waiting period on it. As for Schroeder, she first asks him if he's going to give her a valentine. When he asks why he would when he never has before, Lucy exclaims, "Hope!", slamming her fist down on the piano and sending him flying. Later, she says she'd settle for a kiss and a hug, but Schroeder completely ignores her suggestion. And at the end of the special, Lucy grumbles about not getting a valentine from him, but says she's willing to forgive him if it was an oversight or if it got lost in the mail. Schroeder confirms he just didn't send her one and, to that, Lucy says, "I see. Well, you know the old saying... 'Rats!'"

Peppermint Patty (voiced by Emily Lalande) and Marcie (voiced by Jessica D. Stone) both give Charlie Brown a fair amount of trouble here. First, while the two of them are talking about valentines, Patty, when she learns that Charlie Brown has never received a single one in his life, exclaims, "Well, then, what am I talking to you for? I should be talking to someone who is used to getting valentines," even though she's the one who started the conversation. She decides Snoopy would be a better candidate when she sees him walk by, pushing a wheel-barrel full of valentines. Later, while they're in class, Patty sees Marcie making a valentine she plans to send to Charlie Brown, whom she says she's quite fond of. Patty suggests signing her name to it as well, to which Marcie responds, "Oh, sure! Hitch a ride on my valentine!" Yeah, Marcie is unusually bitchy here. In the very next scene, she visits Charlie Brown at his house to see if he likes her. When he's confused by her question, she gets irritated, yelling, "I walk all the way over here to ask you a question, and all you can say is, 'Do I what?!' Forget it, Charles!", leaving him completely befuddled by her outburst. Then, in the next scene, when Charlie Brown gets a letter in the mail and tells Patty he hopes it's from the Little Red-Haired Girl, she jumps on him, saying it's from her and that she's the one he likes; again, he's left dumbfounded by this. The next night, he gets a phone call from Marcie, who tells him she walked over to see if he liked her. When Charlie Brown again acts clueless and says, "To do what?!", Marcie exclaims, "I can't stand it!" As if they hadn't caused him enough trouble, when Charlie Brown accidentally calls Marcie instead of the Little Red-Haired Girl, she figures he was actually intending to call Patty and invite her to the Valentine's Day dance. Before he can explain himself, Patty accepts his offer and, at the dance, he finds himself dancing with both of them, missing his chance with the Little Red-Haired Girl. The next day, they both chew him out for not being romantic or renting a limo, as well as for being a bad dancer. Patty asks him never to invite them to a dance again, while Marcie intones, "Many a heart is broken after the ball," before walking off with her.

Schroeder (voiced by Christopher Ryan Johnson) only has a few scenes, all of which revolve around him getting harassed by Lucy about getting her a valentine while he's practicing his piano. The first time, when she asks him if he's going to get her one, he asks, "I never have. What makes you think I'll give you one this year?", to which Lucy proclaims, "Hope!" The second time, she says she'd settle for a kiss and a hug, and he totally ignores her the whole time. And then, near the end, Lucy grumbles that she didn't get a valentine from him and thinks it wasn't just an oversight. She adds that, were it simply lost in the mail, she'd be thankful just for the thought. Schroeder makes it clear it wasn't an oversight or a case of it getting lost, much to Lucy's chagrin. Snoopy (voiced by Bill Melendez) doesn't have a lot to do here, either. He's first seen getting up in the middle of the night and typing something, much to Charlie Brown's irritation, and then, he's writing up lines for romantic stories, with Lucy critiquing them, and charged by Sally to come up with verses for the valentine she plans to make for Linus. Both of them severely criticize what he comes up with, much to his confusion. Later, Charlie Brown uses him to practice giving a valentine to the Little Red-Haired Girl, and Snoopy goes all out for him, putting on a red wig and kissing him when he stands there confused. His most notable moment comes when he accompanies Charlie Brown to the dance and is able to get in when he's passed off as a kid who thought it was a costume party. Once inside the party, Snoopy charms all of the girls by kissing their hands, and is the one who dances with the Little Red-Haired Girl after Peppermint Patty and Marcie spoil Charlie Brown's chance. Though, at the end of the special, Snoopy is the one who delivers the valentine to Charlie Brown and affectionately kisses him.

Several other Peanuts characters appear in silent roles, like Franklin (who looks strangely dirty), Pigpen, and Violet, all of whom you see at the dance, and Eudora (voiced by Wesley Singerman), a little known character who wasn't introduced to the comic until the 70's (when I saw her here, I was completely thrown, as I had no clue who she was), appears briefly in one scene where she's walking and talking with Sally. There's also a kid minding the door at the dance who, initially, doesn't allow Snoopy in, but falls for Charlie Brown's lie about him being a kid dressed up as a dog (he says "dude," a term that just doesn't feel right when said in a Peanuts cartoon). Most notably, though, you actually see the Little Red-Haired Girl here. This wasn't the first time she'd appeared onscreen, as she did so in both It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown and Happy New Year, Charlie Brown, where her name was given as Heather both times, but it's still a rarity that you see her at all. Unfortunately, as Charlie Brown learns when he overhears Linus talking to her, she is completely oblivious to his very existence, just as he feared.

Visually, this special is quite sophisticated in that it was among the first to use digital ink and paint, giving it a much slicker and glossier look than many of the past (incidentally, for this one time, they retained the white outline around Lucy's hair and Snoopy's ears that featured in the comics), and the animation is much smoother and fluid. Some may not care for this and might prefer the sort of gritty, handmade feel of the classic specials from the 60's to the early 90's, but I think it looks quite nice. Really, it's only when you get into stuff like He's a Bully, Charlie Brown and that Peanuts animated series that aired on Cartoon Network and Boomerang, where the animation itself was done digitally, that I have an issue (although, on a side note, I think the CGI animation they went with for The Peanuts Movie worked very well). But, that said, I really wished they would have done more with the look and art design of the special to evoke the feeling of the time of year it's supposed to take place in. Much like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, this feels like it's taking place in the springtime, with all the green trees and grass, mostly clear, blue skies, and the kids wearing their usual warm weather clothes, than in February (seriously, look at all of the outside scenes in this cartoon). It may sound like a dumb thing to be harping on but, if all of the Christmas specials and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown could really wallow in the look and feel of their respective holidays, I don't see why this one couldn't. And, speaking of which, while Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown had quite a bit of the iconography of Valentine's Day, there's little of it here, save for the occasional valentine card with a heart on it, the idea of valentines being passed out at school, and a brief moment inside a candy shop, where you see heart-shaped boxes and cards in the background. It's really only when you get to the dance near the end that it finally comes out in full, with all of those red and pink heart decorations and the pinkish color of the walls themselves, and even then, it's not much to write home about. Again, not a big issue, but I like to see animated holiday specials try to really do something with their premise rather than simply using the holiday as a backdrop to the story.

A big reason why I ended up enjoying this special as much as I did is because, for once, things actually work out for Charlie Brown in the end, despite all of the grief he does go through. As much I love the Peanuts, these cartoons can get depressing, frustrating, and downright mean-spirited, especially back in the early years, and that always seems to be amplified whenever the story involves Charlie Brown dealing with love. In You're in Love, Charlie Brown, which, as mentioned, this cartoon takes some inspiration from, Lucy and Violet actually taunt him for his crush on the Little Red-Haired Girl, singing a cruel song about how no one could love him, and the ending has him missing his chance to talk to her before summer vacation, with an implication that the note he supposedly got from her might be a cruel prank in and of itself. Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown has him getting no valentines, even though he really hoped he would, and Schroeder standing up to the other kids when they try to give him some simply because they didn't want to feel guilty, only for Charlie Brown to go totally spineless and accept them out of sheer desperation. And while It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown ends with him actually getting to kiss Heather and, though he doesn't remember it because of the overly euphoric state he was caught up in, apparently killing it at the dance, it still has the horribly frustrating subplot of Charlie Brown being blamed for losing his school's big football game, even though it was clear to anyone who could see that it was all Lucy's fault. In this special, though, while Charlie Brown does horribly struggle with his insecurity about talking to the Little Red-Haired Girl (seriously, there are so many moments where he's moaning about it that it starts to get monotonous), often makes a fool of himself, and is left clueless over Peppermint Patty and Marcie's frustrations with him, it's not uncomfortable to watch, mainly because nearly all of it is a result of him being his own worst enemy, rather than everyone and everything being against him. And still, at the end of the special, someone does send him a valentine. You never find out who it is but at least someone noticed him, and who knows, maybe the Little Red-Haired Girl did learn who he is and decided that she liked him.

The first thing you see when the cartoon starts up is Charlie Brown and Snoopy sleeping, when Snoopy wakes up, turns on the light, and crawls up onto the cover. The sound of typing wakes Charlie Brown, who, upon seeing Snoopy sitting on the bed, using his typewriter, exclaims, "I hate it when he gets an idea in the middle of the night!" After writing a little bit, Snoopy hands him the paper, and Charlie Brown reads, "A Valentine's car for Valentine's Day. Roses are red, chocolate is brown..." Whether that's all there was or not, Charlie Brown grumbles, "Good grief." The next day, while sitting on opposite sides of a tree, Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty have this conversation: "Valentine's Day puzzles me, Chuck. If someone gives you a great, big valentine, does that mean love, Chuck?" "Well, it could, of course. But, actually, the size of the valentine isn't important." "How about an expensive valentine, Chuck? Does that mean love?" "Oh, no. I don't think the price has anything to do with love." "Should a valentine be mailed, or should it be presented in person, Chuck?" "I don't think it really matters." "Have you been given a lot of valentines in your time, Chuck?" "No. I've never received a single valentine." Upon hearing that, Patty decides she should be talking to someone who's used to getting valentines. At that moment, Snoopy walks by, pushing a wheel-barrel full of valentines, and stops to give her a peck on the nose; she then decides he's the one to talk to. Following that comes the moment when Lucy critiques Snoopy's attempts at writing romance and becomes frustrated with his taking her suggestions too literally. After she storms off, Sally drops by and he hands her the next thing he writes: "Dear Sweetheart, happy Valentine's Day. I'd do anything for you. I'd climb the highest mountain. I'd dog-paddle the deepest ocean." He then writes something else and shows it to her: "'Your eyes are beautiful,' he said. 'Shall I compare them to a summer's day? No, even more. Your eyes are like two supper dishes. Be my valentine.'" Sally comes up with the idea of making her own valentine and asks Snoopy to type out a verse. So, he does: "Chocolate chip cookies are red, chocolate chip cookies are blue, chocolate chip cookies are sweet, so are you." Sally writes it off as horrible, that she can't do anything with it, and leaves, telling Snoopy to write something else. In response, he just sits there atop his doghouse and shrugs his shoulders.

On the playground, Sally tells Linus, "If I hold my hands out like this, you can put a valentine right in them." In response, he says, "Or, you can stand like that for the rest of your life and never get anything," before walking away. Sally then looks up and says, "It feels like it might rain." During lunch, Charlie Brown laments not having the guts to talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl, when she drops her pencil on the ground nearby. Picking it up, he sees that it has teeth-marks on it and proclaims her to be human because she nibbles on it. Lucy shows up and Charlie Brown shows her the pencil, adding that he's going to wait for her to walk by so he can say he found it. But Lucy, saying she doesn't want to see him go through so much trouble, takes the pencil and runs off, yelling to the girl, "Hey, here's your stupid pencil!" Later, as Linus stands beside him, Charlie Brown sees a kid push the Little Red-Haired Girl down. He comments that she got up but he's just going to do it again, and wishes that he were tough enough to intervene. Cracking his blanket, Linus decides to intervene on Charlie Brown's behalf and walks offscreen. Another crack fills the air and Linus returns, telling Charlie Brown the bully won't bother the girl anymore. He moans, "That's very comforting: I'm the friend of a hero." Elsewhere, in their own classroom, Peppermint Patty learns that Marcie is planning on sending a valentine to Charlie Brown, much to her displeasure. After school comes the moment when Marcie goes over to Charlie Brown's house to feel out whether or not he likes her, only to get upset when he's totally oblivious towards it. Following that is when he gets a letter in the mail that turns out to be from Patty, rather than the Little Red-Haired Girl, and she tells him that it's her he likes. And then, Marcie's phone call to Charlie Brown the next night goes south as well.

While Lucy bugs Schroeder about getting her a valentine, Charlie Brown shows Sally a valentine he plants on giving to the Little Red-Haired Girl. Sally comments, "She'll probably laugh right in your face," but he figures, "At least I'd be near her." He then shows it to Snoopy and asks him to help him practice giving it to the girl by pretending to be her. He goes out on the doorstep and rings the doorbell, only to be taken aback when Snoopy steps out, wearing a red wig. While Charlie Brown stands there, stunned, Snoopy kisses him right on the cheek. Next, he rehearses the various things to say when he gives the girl the valentine (all I can say is that it's a good thing he's a kid, because some of the stuff he says would come off as really creepy, otherwise), but ultimately chokes and puts it in the mailbox, telling Linus he mailed it anonymously. After that, Sally shows up at Linus' house to give him a valentine. As usual, Linus tells her he isn't her "sweet baboo," before asking if the valentine has any monetary value. Sally glances at it and says, "I doubt it." Meanwhile, Charlie Brown goes to a candy shop to buy the Little Red-Haired Girl a box of candy, specifying that it not be too expensive, as he won't have the nerve to give it to her. He does buy it but, still being too shy to give it to her, he stands behind a tree and sticks his hand out while holding the box, hoping she'll just take it.

That night, he lies in bed and decides that, the next day, he'll tell the girl he loves her and give her a big hug... and adds, "Then I'll go bungee-jumping from the moon." The camera then zooms into the moon outside his window and transitions to a shot of a sandwich he's eating the next day, which has a bite taken out of it akin to the angle of a crescent moon. He sits there, imagining what it would be like if the Little Red-Haired Girl gave him a real nice valentine and asked him, "Dearest Charlie Brown, won't you be my valentine? Please? Please? Please?" Realizing how futile this fantasizing is, he heads back into the school. Lucy is then shown, again, aggravating Schroeder, telling him, "I've decided something. For Valentine's Day this year, don't get me anything fancy, like candy or flowers. I'll settle for a kiss on the nose and a hug." Schroeder totally ignores her and continues playing, with Lucy adding, "Or a whole lot less!" At that moment, Sally is making another valentine for Linus, whom she again calls her sweet baboo, despite what Charlie Brown tells her Linus himself said. She's then walking the streets with Eudora, going through the valentines she has for all of the boys at school she likes, including the special one for her sweet baboo. Eudora asks, "Does your sweet baboo know who he is?", and Sally answers, "Oh, he knows who he is." They happen to pass by a candy shop and spot Linus standing outside it. Sally figures he's trying to think of something to get her for Valentine's Day, commenting, "It'll probably be a box of candy shaped like a big heart." Linus yells, "Or a big zero!" Ever in denial, Sally says to Eudora, "Isn't he the cutest thing?"

In the next scene, Charlie Brown and Linus are on a seesaw at the playground, when Charlie Brown spots the Little Red-Haired Girl. He decides to invite her to the Valentine's dance and asks Linus to talk to her and see if she likes him. Linus goes to do so, while Charlie Brown hides behind a nearby trashcan to listen. He overhears this conversation between Linus and the girl (you don't actually hear what she says): "Hi, there. My name is Linus. I believe we have a friend in common. His name is Charlie Brown. He sits across the room from you in school... No, by the window, near the pencil sharpener... No, in the last row... Well, kind of blonde, I guess... No, you're thinking of Mike... No, not as tall... A shirt with sort of jagged stripes?... No, not John. John is a lot bigger... Sort of a round face... Doesn't ring a bell, huh?... No, 'brown' like in 'town...' Just doesn't ring a bell, huh?" As the conversation goes on, what confidence Charlie Brown had evaporates very quickly, as he slumps against the back of the trashcan and collapses to the ground, groaning, "I can't stand it. I just can't stand it." He walks with Lucy on the way home, and she scolds him for not being able to talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl. That's when he makes the mistake of saying that pretty faces make him nervous and unable to talk to girls, sending her on a rant about how he's able to talk to her regardless. And in the next scene, he's sitting outside with Linus as they eat their lunch and goes on his speech about him being nothing and the girl something when asked why he doesn't just ask her to the dance.

Back in the classroom, Charlie Brown, again, spies the Little Red-Haired Girl, wondering how it would go down if he went over, put his arm around her, and kissed her. Thinking about it causes him to jump backwards in excitement and he decides he'd best stop thinking like that. Linus suggests he say something nice to the girl and he does, except he goes about it by yelling out, "You look really cute today!" It got her attention, as you hear a loud clatter from her falling out of her chair, and Linus suggests he be more subtle. That's when Charlie Brown tries to wink at her, but finds he can't get any "distance" with it. The teacher, noticing how he's acting, says something and he tells Linus she's sending him to the nurse because of his eye, which appears to be stuck in a wink. The next day, he and Linus talk behind the stone wall where they always have their conversations and he says the nurse found nothing wrong with his eyes. Linus asks if she told him to stop winking at girls and he answers, "She said that's the first thing they teach you in medical school." Next, he goes to see Lucy at her psychiatric booth, asking her if she can cure loneliness. She says she can cure anything for a nickel, but when he asks if she can cure, "Deep down, black bottom of the well, no hope, end of the world, what's the use loneliness," she exclaims, "For the same nickel?!" After recovering from that earful, Charlie Brown tells Lucy his fear about not liking the Little Red-Haired Girl as much as he thinks he does and having to break up with her if she gives him a valentine, deciding she likes him. Aggravated at his ridiculousness, especially when he says, "Maybe I could leave her now, and meet her later," Lucy closes her booth and opens up her other business of selling valentines, where she offers him a potent valentine but tells him there's a five-day waiting period on it.

Back at school, Charlie Brown decides to get the Little Red-Haired Girl's attention by walking around the classroom, when he gets his shirt sleeve caught in the pencil sharpener. Not wanting her to think he's a moron, he attempts to wriggle out of his shirt while still looking cool, but that doesn't go well at all. Now, there's a line of kids waiting to sharpen their pencils, one wondering what the holdup is, and Charlie Brown, who's head is stuck inside his shirt, moans, "I like a pencil with a fine point." Following Sally's failed attempt to hand Linus a valentine out in class, Charlie Brown is seen waiting by his mailbox to watch his valentines come in. He comments that he's surprised no one has done this before, when the box's lid swings down and bops him on the nose. Turns out, Snoopy was playing around in the box, but Charlie Brown shoos him away. Then, he decides to climb inside it himself, but realizes it wasn't a good idea when it starts pouring rain while he's stuck in the box. Next, we're back at school at lunchtime, where Charlie Brown is, once again, fantasizing about how it would be if the Little Red-Haired Girl came over, kissed him, and admitted she always loved him. He then adds, "And wouldn't it be something if it turned out that french fries were good for you?" After munching on a fry, he sees the girl handing valentines out to her friends and he gets his hopes up... and then, she gives out the last one and walks away. On the way home that afternoon, Linus suggests Charlie Brown get the girl's number, call her up, and invite her to the dance. Despite his trepidation, he gets the number, but then calls information and asks advice about talking to her. The person on the other end gets irritated at this and Charlie Brown hangs up. Linus pushes him to call the girl himself and he proceeds to go about it. Unfortunately, he dials the wrong number and talks to Marcie instead. Figuring it's Charlie Brown, she says, "If it is, how have you been? If it isn't, what do I care how you've been?" She correctly figures his calling was a mistake, but wrong thinks he wanted to talk to Peppermint Patty, who happens to also be over there. Marcie gives Patty the phone and, since Charlie Brown is too nervous to explain himself, she accepts his "invitation" to the dance.

The night of the dance, Charlie Brown puts on a tux and heads out. He tries to feed Snoopy first, only for him to jump off his doghouse, wearing a red bow-tie. Charlie Brown is unsure how he's going to get Snoopy in, but when the kid at the door tries to bar him, he says Snoopy is a kid who thought it was a costume party and they're both allowed inside. Charlie Brown meets up with Linus, who points the Little Red-Haired Girl out to him, saying she's just waiting for his dance; Charlie Brown, however, says he wishes he were more sophisticated. While Snoopy charms all the girls by kissing their hands and being all smooth, Charlie Brown finally works up the nerve to walk over to the girl. But, just as he's about to reach her, Marcie and Peppermint Patty spot him and drag him into a dance with the two of them. After he gets free from them, Linus again tries encourage Charlie Brown to dance with the girl, but he then sees that she's taken, by Snoopy, of all people. And then, Pigpen hits the floor and fills the place up with dust when he starts busting a move. The next day, Charlie Brown gets an earful from Patty and Marcie about how the dance wasn't up to par and ask him not to invite them to another one. After Lucy learns that her not receiving a valentine from Schroeder was not an oversight on his or the mail's part, Sally shows up at her and Linus' house. Sally talks with Lucy, saying she wanted to thank Linus for his valentine, and when he denies having given her one, she admits she was being sarcastic. At the end of the cartoon, Charlie Brown and Linus are at the wall again, the former talking about dreaming of the Little Red-Haired Girl and how he'll be depressed for the rest of the day; Linus figures he's too macho to cry, as much as he'd want to, which is the last thing Charlie Brown ever expected to be accused of. Finally, it ends on Snoopy giving him a valentine from his wheel-barrel and kissing him on the nose. As he looks happily at the unopened letter, Linus smiles and tells him, "Happy Valentine's Day, Charlie Brown."

As per usual with many of the later specials of the 90's and 2000's, Chris Benoit created the score by reusing and, in some cases, re-orchestrating Vince Guaraldi's classic themes. In addition to the expected "Linus and Lucy" main theme, which you hear over the opening credits and actually get a jazzy, rock version of during the scene at the Valentine's dance, you often hear an instrumental version of the song Poor Little Charlie Brown, which was first used in You're in Love, Charlie Brown, as well as a theme that had been used before by Peppermint Patty. As he often did, Benoit proves to have a real knack for emulating Guaraldi's laid back, mellow style, best exemplified in this really calm, lounge-like piece you hear during the opening and over the closing credits.

If you want a Peanuts special that revolves around Valentine's Day or love in general and isn't so focused on Charlie Brown being emotionally tortured that you can hardly watch it, A Charlie Brown Valentine is your best bet. While Charlie Brown does have to put up with some aggravating stuff, it's actually quite fun to watch and things ultimately turn out well for him, the situations involving the other characters are equally entertaining, the special looks really good, is much more polished, and has better animation than what was seen in many of the past ones, and the music is just as nice to listen to as ever. There are some cons, like Charlie Brown perhaps spending too much time fantasizing and pining for the Little Red-Haired Girl, and you wish it would have more of a wintery feel and be steeped more in the iconography of Valentine's Day, but regardless, it makes for a fun watch and in my opinion, is one of the better Peanuts-related projects made since the millennium.