Wednesday, February 13, 2019

You're in Love, Charlie Brown (1967)

This DVD cover is the definition of deceiving.
A more fitting title would have been Your Life Sucks, Charlie Brown or The Universe Hates You, Charlie Brown. Yeah, this was tough to rewatch, as it is little more than 25 minutes of Charlie Brown getting crapped on, bullied, berated, embarrassed, and constantly missing the chance to introduce himself to the girl he has a crush on. There are some moments that are genuinely funny, mind you, but for the most part, it's pretty savage stuff, making me think that Charles Schulz must have been at a really low point with his chronic depression, which I've heard was at its absolute worst during this period. It was the only the fourth of these specials, so they were probably still seeing how far they could go with the rather melancholy nature of the comic strips, but few of them have come as close to reaching it as this one did (which is probably why it hasn't been rerun since 1972). And the kicker of it is that I decided to do this one for Valentine's Day simply based on the title. Since I did Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown last year, I decided I wanted to do another Peanuts special for the holiday this year and chose this one, which I hadn't actually watched in a while and, as a result, had completely forgotten just how downright mean-spirited it gets. I can remember when my mom and I watched a lot of these specials at one time and she, who likes the Peanuts as much as I do, was taken aback by the sheer mental torture Charlie Brown is put through here. Even the ending, which seems hopeful enough, may not have as much of a silver lining as you might think, as we'll get into, so this definitely represents one of the lowest points of Charlie Brown's abnormally long childhood. (But then again, Valentine's Day, as I've said before, is not a holiday I'm into at all, so maybe it does fit in an ironic kind of way.)

Charlie Brown, like always, is miserable, feeling that nobody likes him and saying that he can't enjoy himself, not even at lunchtime. On the way to school, he tells Linus that he wishes that he could at least have lunch with this little red-haired girl, who's riding a bus that passes them. Linus figures that Charlie Brown's problem is that he's in love and, even worse, it's the next-to-last day of school, meaning that if he doesn't make his move soon, he'll have to wait all summer for another chance. Throughout the day, he tries to think of different ways to let the little red-haired girl know how he feels, only to continually embarrass himself, either by accidentally reading a love note to her out loud in class, trying to get Linus to find out if she's ever noticed him in a surreptitious manner, only for him to tell her everything, or attempting to sharpen his pencil as an excuse to talk to her, only to choke and sharpen his pen by mistake. It doesn't help when, on the way home, Lucy and Violet mock him for the dumb stuff he did and Linus tells them why he did it, which only gives them more ammunition. Now, with no one else to help him, and with the next day being the last day of school, Charlie Brown must try to find the gumption to tell the little red-haired girl how he feels.

In his direction of this special, Bill Melendez seemed to be in an experimental mood, as you see some instances of stylizing that you don't often get in these specials, such as when Charlie Brown embarrasses himself in class and you see a bunch of, "HA, HAs," behind him as the kids laugh, as well as a twirling, white spiral superimposed over him at one point when he says something dumb and then keeps digging a deeper hole for himself. Also, near the end, there are moments where loud sound effects are actually given large, onscreen words to correspond with them, such as when Charlie Brown's alarm clock rings and "CLICK, CLACK!" and another "CLACK!" when he's opening and closing doors at the school. It's possible that latter bit could have been due to the influence of the onomatopoeic word balloons you often see in the Batman TV series with Adam West, which was popular around that time, but I've seen that in plenty of other comics, including the Peanuts strips, so I'm not sure if it's entirely down to that. And finally, there's a moment where Lucy and Violet dance around Charlie Brown while mocking him in song that's similar to a moment in the theatrical movie, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which was released a couple of years later. It's as if Melendez tried that bit of animation out here to see if it could work before tackling it for the movie.

Yeah, as I've already made clear, Charlie Brown (voiced by Peter Robbins) has a rough couple of days in this special, starting out miserable but not understanding why, and when he does figure out the main source of his heartache, it doesn't get any easier for him. Realizing that he has a crush on the little red-haired girl, and that he only has a couple of days to introduce himself before summer vacation starts, he tries to think of various ways to get her attention, despite his shyness and insecurities. However, each one fails miserably and leads to humiliation for him. He writes a love letter to her, only to become flustered when the teacher calls on him to read a report in class and he reads the note instead; on the playground, he tries to work up the nerve to go over and talk to her, but instead, he tries to get Linus to slyly find out what she thinks of him, only for Linus to instead blurt out that he loves her, much to Charlie Brown's horror; he goes to sharpen his pencil as an excuse to talk to her, only to chicken out and end up putting his ballpoint pen in the sharpener; and when she approaches him during lunchtime, he puts his lunch bag over his head and walks away, right into Lucy, who proceeds to rip into him when he unintentionally infers that she doesn't have a pretty face while explaining himself. The end of the school day doesn't mean the end of his torment, as Lucy and Violet horribly mock him for his dumb behavior and when they learn about his crush, he again bashfully hides from the little red-haired girl while walking home, Snoopy proves he couldn't care less about his plight, Sally annoys him with her preparing to graduate from kindergarten to first grade, he goes out to Lucy's psychiatric booth for advice but only gets more angry jeering due to her bad mood, and he tries to get Peppermint Patty to help break the ice for him, only for her to misunderstand him and think that the girl he has a crush on is Lucy, leading to an ill-fated encounter between them at the ball park.

What makes Charlie Brown even more pitiable here than everything constantly falling apart for him is when he vocalizes how down he is. He often talks about how nobody likes him, how lunchtime is especially bad because he's always eating alone, and that he'll never get to meet the little red-haired girl, which is really sad to hear coming from such a young kid. While it is partly his fault, being so mopey and not having enough of a backbone to go over and talk to the girl, despite Linus' attempts to get him to do so, I can relate to a part of it since I've always been uncomfortable introducing myself to people I don't know, as rejection really cuts me to the bone, and I was ostracized by many of the kids I went to elementary school with, looked upon as weird because I wasn't into what so many others were. With only one day left before summer vacation, Charlie Brown, as he's getting ready for bed, decides that he needs to man up and introduce himself to the little red-haired girl. To that end, he sets his alarm clock for 4:30 so he can get to the bus stop in time to talk to her, only to fall asleep before the bus arrives, miss his chance, and get left behind. As a result, he's late for school, despite his attempt to sneak in unnoticed, and gets sent to the principal's office for mouthing off at the teacher when asked why he's late. He misses recess, as well as possibly his last chance to talk to the girl, and once he's back in class, he's asked to solve a math problem on the blackboard. He believes that this is the time to impress the girl, but when he writes a bunch of college-level, geometry formulas on the board, he confesses that he doesn't know what he's doing and gets laughed at again. At the end of the school day, Charlie Brown rushes out to the school bus to be the first one there, but the large crowd of students that clamor for the bus prevent him from spotting the red-haired girl. The bus drives away and he believes he's failed, only to find that he was slipped a note that appears to be from the girl, who says that she likes him. Finally, after all the misery he's been put through, Charlie Brown is absolutely elated, saying that he can't wait until September and no one will ever give him crap again... but, after the credits, he wonders how he'll survive until then.

Charlie Brown says that nobody likes him but that's not entirely true, as Linus (voiced by Christopher Shea) most certainly does and tries to be there for him. He's the one who deduces that Charlie Brown's problem is that he's in love, and when he's moping around on the playground, Linus tries to snap him out of it, telling him to either play with the other kids or go over and introduce himself to the little red-haired girl, reminding him that he doesn't have much time with which to do so. But, despite his good intentions, Linus sometimes ends up causing more trouble for Charlie Brown. Being too nervous to talk to the little red-haired girl himself, he has Linus go talk to her and attempt to "slyly" find out what she thinks of him, only for him to come back and say, "I did it, Charlie Brown. I went up to her, and I told her all about how you're madly in love with her," prompting him to run off while letting out an embarrassed yell. Later, when he joins him for lunch, he tries to cheer him up by telling him that it's the last day of school tomorrow, which is Charlie Brown's very problem. Worse of all, when the two of them are walking home from school and Lucy and Violet mock Charlie Brown for his dumb behavior, Linus tries to vouch for him by saying that it's because he loves the little red-haired girl. All he succeeds in doing, though, is give the girls more ammunition to throw at him, and Charlie Brown glares at him afterward. And when Charlie Brown sneaks into the classroom after missing the bus the following day, Linus loudly asks him why he's late, giving him away. On top of all this, Linus, as usual, has to deal with Sally's unwanted affections, both before school and on the playground.

Also as usual, in stark contrast to her brother, Lucy (voiced by Sally Dryer) causes poor Charlie Brown nothing but more heartache and anguish in what little screentime she has. Her first significant moment comes when Charlie Brown, too nervous to face the little red-haired girl during lunchtime, puts the lunch bag over his head and walks to the line leading back into the school, only to bump into her. Initially, she's just annoyed that he ran into her but, when he tells her that it was because of the little red-haired girl and that pretty faces make him nervous, she proceeds to go off on him thusly: "How come my face doesn't make you nervous? I've noticed you can talk to me! I have a pretty face! So how come you can talk to me?! Wasn't I the Christmas Queen? You haven't answered! Hmm?" Then, after school, she and Violet show up and harass Charlie Brown over a stupid answer to a question in class, and when Linus makes the mistake of telling them what his dilemma is, the girls laugh at him, sing a mocking song while dancing around him, and then walk off laughing some more. And yet, despite this, Charlie Brown later shows up at Lucy's psychiatric booth for advice. Unfortunately for him, right before she shows up, she's been with Schroeder, going on about the possibilities of their being married with him as a great pianist, only for him to ignore what she said, prompting her to declare that musicians themselves aren't very romantic. When he furthers the point by putting a bust of Beethoven on his piano, she angrily smashes it with the bust, only for him to pull out a couple of spares and resume playing. She proceeds to storm out of the house and so, when she arrives at the booth, she's not interested in helping Charlie Brown with his problem, yelling, "I know your kind, Charlie Brown. It's men like you that make the world a rough place to live for beautiful girls like me. You men are all alike! You talk a lot of romantic nonsense, but do you ever discuss marriage? NO! You're all alike! My Aunt Miriam was right! Never discuss marriage with a musician." Charlie Brown gives up and walks away, with Lucy again yelling, "You scoundrels are all alike!" That's not the end of it, though. Later, Charlie Brown tries to get Peppermint Patty to break the ice between him and the little red-haired girl but she gets mixed up and thinks Lucy is the girl he's interested in. She arranges a meeting between the two of them at the ball park at 6:30 that night, with Lucy thinking it's a rendezvous with Schroeder. But, when 6:30 arrives and the two of them come face to face, they both yell, "You! Bleh!"

Peppermint Patty (voiced by Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter) had first appeared in the comic strip the previous year and this marked her first appearance in animation, though her role feels kind of arbitrary and shoehorned in. After Charlie Brown gets raked across the coals by Lucy at her psychiatric booth, Patty calls him and tells him that she's decided to come over and help with the baseball team. When she shows up, though, Charlie Brown tells her that he has more pressing problems than the team and tells her about a girl in his class. However, that's literally all he's able to say about her before Patty chimes in and says that she gets that he needs someone to break the ice between the two of them. She then meets up with Lucy (whom she calls "Lucille," much to her confusion), whom she thinks is the girl, and tells her a "cultured kid" who has a crush on her but is too shy to come out and say it. She proceeds to arrange a meeting between them on home-plate at the ball park at 6:30, passing the same information on to Charlie Brown and assuring him he has nothing to worry about. Before she leaves, she admits that she's better when it comes to baseball, and both Charlie Brown and Lucy learn how right she is that night, when they see who they got set up with. As I said, this section feels like a shoehorned in excuse to give Patty her first onscreen appearance, as well as to pad out the running time.

Other than annoying Linus a couple of times with her irritating affections for him, Sally (voiced by Kathy Steinberg) only has one really notable scene, which is when Charlie Brown comes home from school to find her wearing a graduation cap and gown and strutting back and forth as a phonograph plays the type of music you often hear at graduations. When asked what she's doing, she explains that not only is she practicing for graduation from kindergarten to first grade but that she's been made class valedictorian. She then asks him to help her with her "speech," adding, "Do you think I should talk upon the role our generation will play in world affairs? Or maybe I could discuss the failure of the present generation to carry out its responsibilities." (When she's speaking these lines, you can hear Kathy Steinberg take a couple of notable pauses, and she subtly mispronounces and slurs a few words as well.) With the mood he's in, Charlie Brown is having none of it and heads back out of the house to visit Lucy's psychiatric booth.

Of the other Peanuts characters who are seen here, only a handful of them have any notable moments. Violet (voiced by Ann Altieri) has never exactly been that friendly to Charlie Brown but she's downright mean and bullying towards him here, as she joins Lucy in mocking him for his dumb behavior in school and singing a teasing song about him while dancing around him. She also comes off as little more than a crony for Lucy, which I don't think has ever quite been the case with her. Schroeder has a memorable scene where he's playing his piano, as Lucy yammers on about what it would be like if the two of them were married, if he found himself unable to play after breaking both arms in a skiing accident, and she had to go to work in a laundry in order to make ends meet. Not at all interested in what she's talking about, Schroeder gets up and puts a bust of Beethoven on his piano for good measure. This enrages Lucy, who smashes the two of them to bits, but Schroeder isn't at all deterred, as he's shown to have two closets full of spares pianos and Beethoven busts. After replacing both of them, he goes back to playing, while Lucy gives up and leaves, lamenting that she'll probably never get married. And finally, Snoopy does very little here and a couple of his appearances in the story are really random. You first see him at the beginning, when Charlie Brown thinks he's fixed breakfast for him, only to find out that Snoopy was making it for himself, and after the title pops up, some birds start to build a nest atop his body, which he's oblivious to when he's lying on top of his doghouse. Later, when the kids are on the playground, he's there, wearing his World War I flying ace getup, for some reason. Initially, the kids seem happy to have them there, as he jumps rope with Violet and rides a tetherball he gets caught on, which seems to impress them, but then, the girls are suddenly yelling at him and kick him out of the schoolyard, much to his irritation. When Charlie Brown comes home from school, all sad, he says that he needs his "faithful" dog to greet him, but Snoopy, who's lying atop his doghouse again, merely yawns and changes positions. And when Charlie Brown goes to bed that night, Snoopy is sleeping with him, clearly irritated by his talking to himself and winds up climbing atop the bed's headboard, as if he were back at his doghouse.

Being one of the earliest of the Peanuts specials, You're in Love, Charlie Brown has some of the animation and design anomalies that the ones before it did. The animation is still as simple and choppy as it was back in A Charlie Brown Christmas for the most part, save for some moments here and there where it becomes a bit more fluid, like a moment at the beginning when Linus shows Charlie Brown how handy he is at whipping things with his blanket, the moment at lunchtime when Charlie Brown becomes nervous and starts shaking when the little red-haired girl approaches him, a similar moment when he thinks he sees her waiting for him at home plate and freaks out, and when he crawls along the front and back of the gate around the school when he's trying to sneak in without being pegged as tardy. As I said earlier, the moment where Lucy and Violet dance around while teasing Charlie Brown with that mocking song could be seen as something of a test for a moment they would later do in A Boy Named Charlie Brown, and it was definitely an ambitious bit of animation for one of these specials, but it's not as fluid as they were probably hoping it would be, with the girls' movements coming off as quite limited. Still, they probably needed to try it before tackling the animation for a feature length movie. There's also a moment on the playground where Linus walks in-between some girls on the swings and doesn't get hit by any of them, but if you look carefully, one of them clips right through him! As for the character designs, this was still during that period after the first special where they hadn't quite gotten the faces right, as they look a little rough and protoypey. On top of that, in some side views, such as when Charlie Brown is telling Linus to talk to the little red-haired girl and see what she thinks of him, his head looks off, with the section below his noggin curving a lot more than it usually does, making the back part of his head look like an egg. And there are also moments where the characters get overly anxious or nervous and their eyes get really wide, actually developing some white around the pupils. I don't remember seeing that in many other specials and it looks bizarre when added to these character designs.

As per usual, the backgrounds and designs of the interior environments aren't given a whole lot of detail, especially those of the school, which is where 85% of this special is set. However, what offsets this is that there are a number of exterior scenes here, which have a little more detail to them, such as the neighborhood, forests, and fields that surround Charlie Brown and Linus as they walk to school. A lot of these exterior shots, with the green trees, bright flowers, birds fluttering around, and blue, cloudless sky, evoke the classic feeling of springtime rather than summer, which is when this is supposed to be taking place. One thing that's notable is that you have sequences that take place on the school's playground, something you don't often see in these specials. There's nothing that unique about the playground itself but its inclusion is noteworthy, as is the fact that, in the closeups of Charlie Brown when he's sitting on the bench there, eating his lunch, the background has that vagueness to it where he might as well be anywhere, inside or out, an aesthetic that's normally used for the interior scenes. Finally, the dusk and nighttime exterior scenes here look really nice, as is often the case with these specials. The meeting between Charlie Brown and Lucy at home plate one evening is drawn in a very lovely manner, with the red sky and the shadows the environment casts, and the same goes for the sequence of Charlie Brown heading out to the bus stop early in the morning, which has more detail than usual in the design of the surrounding neighborhood and the shots of the moon in the sky look nice enough to hang on your wall (such as the shot of it in the background, along with a church and some houses, as Charlie Brown steps along the sidewalk in the foreground).

One of the things that's interesting about the aesthetics of the Peanuts is the way in which the little red-haired girl is depicted here... which is not at all. Since she's nothing but a plot device and a symbol of unrequited love for Charlie Brown, Charles Schulz never once drew her in the comics, save for a silhouette appearance as late as 1998 (though Schulz did do at least one known detailed drawing of her way back in 1950); therefore, in doing the first special involving her, Bill Melendez and company followed suit. You never see her once during this entire special, not even when she's supposedly riding on a passing school bus or rushing towards in a crowd at the end, and her very presence is only made clear because Charlie Brown is often watching her from afar and talking and thinking about her. Aside from that, she is literally nothing and is about as nonexistent a "character" as the kids' parents. I say "about" because at least you know that she's there, whereas you simply assume that the parents are around somewhere, but at the same time, the other adults, like the school teachers and the principal, have something of a "voice," if nothing else, which she doesn't have. I can remember being quite surprised by how she's completely tiptoed around in this special, as I thought, "Surely, we'll at least get a glimpse of her, to see if she's all that Charlie Brown says she is." But, nope, nothing, and such, it stand as another example of the uniqueness of Schulz's MO. (Though, the little red-haired girl would actually be seen in the later special, It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, as well as in some others here and there, and she would also show up and finally speak in The Peanuts Movie.)

Like I said before, there are some interesting stylistic choices to be found here, such as the use of descriptive words for certain sound effects during the third act, a wall of "ha, ha's" that appear behind Charlie Brown when he embarrasses himself in class a couple of times, and a superimposed, white spiral during another humiliating moment for him. In addition, when the title comes up after Linus tells Charlie Brown that his problem is that he's in love, the screen freezes and turns a golden shade of yellow and orange, which is quite lovely to look at. One of the very notable aspects of this special is that this is the first one to use those familiar "wa, wa, wa" trombone sound effects whenever an adult is talking to the kids, albeit a bit more high-pitched and rapid than it would later become. I must say, I've never quite understood the idea behind that. I've heard it was their way of portraying how adults sound to kids who aren't really listening, and there are moments here where the sound does come off more as, "blah, blah," but it's always come off as little more than odd to me. (I don't know if that's because I listened to my teachers, more often than or not, or what.) Speaking of sound, when the girls suddenly decide they don't like Snoopy on the playground, you can see them ranting at him but you don't hear anything, and the same thing happens when Snoopy is tossed off the ground and he rants back at them in anger. I don't know if that was intentional or a goof but, like most of what little stuff involving Snoopy there is here, it comes off as odd. More notably, when Charlie Brown, after missing the morning bus and his chance to talk to the little red-haired girl, tries to sneak into school without being spotted, the sounds suddenly get really loud and echo, from the clinking of him climbing the fence and the rattling and squeaking of the doors to his pounding footsteps (which the characters never have otherwise). It reminds me of this game they played one time on Whose Line Is it Anyway? called "Really Bad Hangover," where two of the performers would act out a scene like they're hung over while the other two would make loud sound effects in some microphones off to the side. Again, whether or not it was intentional, stuff like this shows something of an experimental side to Melendez's direction of this particular special.

Charlie Brown's misery starts right after he wakes up one morning at the beginning of the special. Putting his shirt on, he walks out to the kitchen and is surprised to see Snoopy carry a tray with a steaming dish on it to the table. He follows that up with a glass of milk and some other glasses, which Charlie Brown is even happier to see, as he comments, "Well, how nice. It's not everyone that has a friend to serve his breakfast." Snoopy brings a chair to the table and Charlie Brown is about to sit in it, when the dog jumps on it and removes the dish to reveal that it's a dog-bowl full of kibble, which he proceeds to gobble down. Before heading out the door, Charlie Brown finds that all he has waiting for him in his lunch bag are some peanut butter sandwiches again, much to his chagrin. On the way to school, he comes across Linus, who's carrying his own lunch with him, as well as his security blanket. Charlie Brown asks him if he's afraid of what the kids might say about his blanket and Linus responds by asking if he has a nickel. When Charlie Brown pulls one of his pocket, Linus tells him to flip it into the air and when he does, he whips it with his blanket hard enough to send it flying off into the sky. He says, "They don't say very much," before continuing their walk to school. On the way, Charlie Brown tells Linus that he's absolutely miserable, lamenting that nobody likes him and he can't enjoy lunchtime. A school bus passes by them and Charlie Brown promptly points out the little red-haired girl he saw riding it, asking why he can't have lunch with her. He adds that he often gets worked up to the point where he gets a stomachache and he doesn't know what the problem is. Linus, however, tells him that he knows: he's in love. Following the title screen and a shot of some birds fluttering through the woods, Sally is shown joining her brother and Linus, the latter of whom she nuzzles against, telling him she loves him, much to his annoyance. After a random moment where a couple of birds are seen starting to build a nest on top of Snoopy as he sleeps atop his doghouse, Charlie Brown is shown doing the classic "she loves me, love me not" routine with the petals of a flower outside the fence around the school. Right before he gets to the last one, which would have been "she loves me," Linus comments, "It is difficult for me to believe that a flower has the gift of prophecy." The school bell rings and they rush inside.

Later in class, Charlie Brown can't stop thinking about the little red-haired girl and, realizing that he only has two days left to talk to her before summer vacation, he decides to write her note. In the middle of writing said note, however, he's called on by the teacher to give a report he'd been assigned. Fumbling the papers he has on his desk and dropping most of them on the floor, he struggles to get them organized and walks to the front of the room, in front of the blackboard. Dropping his papers again, and having to put up with the kids giggling at him, he attempts to sort them out, dropping them a second time, and starts reading the first paper he gets, which he realizes too late is his note to the little red-haired girl. He lets out a frustrated yell when it hits him what he just did, which is followed up by the kids laughing hysterically at him. Embarrassed, he sits back down at his desk, Linus telling him that he made a fool of himself, to which he responds, "A comforting word from a friend!" In the next scene, the kids are enjoying recess at the playground, and Snoopy, dressed up as the World War I flying ace, is there as well. He joins Violet in some jump-rope before getting snagged by the tetherball he was playing with at the same time, riding it through the air, much to the other kids' amazement as they wait to head down a slide. Linus goes first, with Sally right behind him, getting up beside him and nuzzling again. Reaching the bottom of the slide, Sally gives him more unwanted affection, prompting Linus to cover himself with his blanket and walk away, managing to avoid getting whacked by three kids on the swings as he goes between them. In a cutaway, Pig Pen walks through a sandbox, sucking all of the sand up as he goes, while Snoopy continues riding on the tetherball. Now, for some reason, the girls are annoyed at him, mouthing off to him before promptly kicking him off the grounds. He turns around and mouths at them while holding his fist in the air but, like them, no sound whatsoever is heard.

Linus tries to snap Charlie Brown out of his funk, asking him to either play with him and the other kids or go over and introduce himself to the little red-haired girl. Reminding him that if he doesn't introduce himself soon, he wouldn't get another chance until the next fall, he tells him he should just get it over with. Charlie Brown, sitting down on the bench beside him, tells Linus that he's right and that he's decided to go over and introduce himself. Saying he's going to stand up, walk over there, and introduce himself, he manages to get to his feet, declaring, "I'm standing up. Now, I'm going to walk over there." He doesn't budge. "I'm standing up." Still nothing. "I'm..." He sits back down and says, "I'm sitting down," prompting Linus to roll his eyes. Charlie Brown asks Linus to help, saying that he should go over, talk to the girl, and slyly find out what she thinks of him. Linus does just that, but when he comes back over, he reveals that he was anything but sly, as he told the girl how he's madly in love with her, and Charlie Brown runs off while yelling in exasperation and embarrassment. Back in class, Charlie Brown, in his despair, notices that the little red-haired girl's desk is right next to the pencil sharpener. Feeling that using it will give him an excuse to talk to her, he gets up and heads over there, trying to act innocent by telling the other kids that his pencil needs sharpening, though they obviously couldn't care less. He reaches the sharpener and starts doing his business but does noting but turn the handle around again and again and again. He walks back to his desk and Linus asks him how it went. Charlie Brown is forced to admit he chickened out again and Linus sees that what he "sharpened," and promptly mangled, was his ballpoint pen! The teacher then calls on him to say something aloud about spelling and he, in his nervousness, starts to talk about certain useful rules to help spell correctly. He says, "The first rule we will never forget is 'i' before 'e' after 'g.'" Quickly realizing he goofed, he tries to correct himself, saying, "Uh, 'e' before 'i,' except after 'g'," and the sound cuts out, though he keeps talking and apparently making it worse for himself.

Lunchtime sees Charlie Brown sitting by his lonesome on a bench in the schoolyard, eating his sandwich and being depressed, while the other kids are running around and enjoying themselves. Linus sits down beside him and tries to cheer him up, reminding him that the next day is the last day of school, but Charlie Brown tells him that's the problem, given how little time he has left to talk to the little red-haired girl. He gets so worked up about it that he ends up tying his sandwich into a knot and Linus, seeing that he's not going to make any headway, decides to go play a little bit before it's time to go back to class. Charlie Brown, again, tries to psych himself up into going over and talking to the girl, saying, "It's stupid to just sit here and admire that little red haired girl from a distance. It's stupid not to get up and go over and talk to her." He stands up. "It's really stupid! It's just plain stupid. So, why I don't I go over and talk to her?" He sits back down. "Because I'm stupid." Wondering what he'd do if she came over and sat down, he's flustered when she sees him from off-camera and begins shaking badly when she starts walking over towards him. Unable to face her, he promptly puts his lunch bag over his head, and then, hearing the school bell ring, he runs towards the line of kids waiting to go back inside. Unable to see because of the bag, he bumps into Lucy at the end of the line, causing her to bump into Schroeder in front of her, and she promptly lambasts him for it. Trying to explain himself, he says that he can't face the little red-haired girl, adding, "Pretty faces make me nervous." This leads into her rant about him supposedly implying that she doesn't have a pretty face as they walk back into the school.

On the way home that afternoon, Charlie Brown and Linus are walking together again, only for Lucy and Violet to show up and make fun of the former for his dumb behavior. Lucy says that he outdid himself today, while Violet says that he was asked why it rains so much in Oregon and Lucy adds that he answered, "Because they have a lot of clouds." The two of them both laugh hysterically, humiliating Charlie Brown, and Linus attempts to speak up for him, saying that the reason why he's been acting this way is because he likes the little red-haired girl. Charlie Brown lets out an exasperated yell, as he knows Linus just gave the girls more ammunition for their mockery and he's right, as they start dancing around him while singing, "Poor little Charlie Brown, nyah, nyah, nyah! No one could love that frown, nyah, nyah, nyah! Who would love you? No one, that's who! Your face is too darn round, nyah, nyah, nyah! Your face is too darn round!" before walking off and continuing to laugh at him. (See what I mean when I talk about how mean-spirited this special gets at times? Talk about a textbook example of emotional abuse.) He then glares at Linus, who smiles sheepishly and waves before walking away. Later, on his way home, Charlie Brown spots the little red-haired girl doing the same and promptly hides behind a tree, remarking on how she walks on the same sidewalk as him. He watches her for a little bit, saying that he wished they were walking together and holding hands, and then calls himself a blockhead, lamenting that he'll never get to do anything with her, include meeting her. Saying all he gets to do is walk home by himself, he goes on, calling this day the worst of his life. Reaching his yard, he says that this is the kind of day when somebody needs their dog to come and greet him. However, Snoopy, who's still lying atop his doghouse, is only interested in switching to a more comfortable position.

After going inside, and getting further aggravated by Sally practicing to graduate from kindergarten to the first grade, Charlie Brown heads back outside and walks over to Lucy's psychiatric booth (I will never understand why he constantly seeks advice from someone who does nothing but pick on and torment him). Not seeing her there, he sits down and waits, grabbing a magazine out of the box of them sitting there. Lucy, however, is over at Schroeder's house, bugging him as he plays his piano. She says that his practicing is a sign that he thinks about the future, proceeding to come up with that fantasy about them being married, him breaking his arms and not being able to play, and her having to support them by working in a laundry, asking him if he thinks that's a romantic notion. Schroeder, not saying anything, gets up and walks offscreen, Lucy commenting that musicians themselves aren't very romantic, despite all the love songs they play. Schroeder comes back with a bust of Beethoven, which he plants down on his piano, sending Lucy into a rage over his disinterest, leading her to grab it and smash the piano to pieces with it, shattering it in the process. She screams, "There! What do you think of that?!" Remaining silent, Schroeder walks over to a closet door and opens it up to reveal that it's full of spare pianos. Setting it down in its place, he walks over to another a closet, this one full of spare Beethoven busts, and replaces the one she smashed atop the piano. He resumes playing and Lucy gives up, groaning, "I'll probably never get married," before leaving the house. She arrives at her booth, where Charlie Brown is still waiting, but is in no mood to help him. He doesn't get to say much about the little red-haired girl before she starts ranting and making him feel worse. It doesn't take long before he sees that this isn't going to make him feel better and leaves, with Lucy still ranting at him.

Following this is the moment where Charlie Brown gets a call from Peppermint Patty, who says that she's on her way over to get things sorted with the baseball team, but when she shows up, he attempts to tell her about his girl problems instead. Before he can tell her of the little red-haired girl, Patty interrupts, saying that she gets what the problem is, which is that he needs somebody to break the ice for him. However, for whatever reason, she thinks the girl in question is Lucy, and she sets up a meetup between them at home plate at 6:30. While Lucy is really looking forward to it, thinking that she's been set up with Schroeder, Charlie Brown is nervous. Nevertheless, come 6:30, he shows up at the ball field, wearing a nice shirt and tie. Walking by the fence, he sees the silhouette of a girl at home plate and almost loses his nerve, as he again becomes a quaking mess. Deciding that he can't get out of it this time, he walks over to home plate as well, only to come face-to-face with Lucy. The two of them are instantly revolted at the idea of who they've been set up with and that kills it immediately. Going to bed that night, Charlie Brown gets the idea to get up real early and meet her at the bus stop, and promptly sets his alarm clock. That morning, at 4:30, the alarm buzzes and he sleepily gets up, puts his shirt on, and creeps out of the house. He makes the long walk through the neighborhood to the bus stop and sits down on the bench to wait. By the time the bus comes by after sunup, he's fallen asleep and a crowd of kids gathers in front of the bench, none of them noticing him at all. The bus pulls up and they all scramble aboard. The driver, whom you can see partly through the windshield )though his face is in shadow, which is a bit unnerving), honks his horn before pulling out, which wakes Charlie Brown up and, at the very last moment, he realizes it's leaving without him. He chases after it, yelling for it stop, but he's ultimately left behind.

Showing up at school well after it's started, Charlie Brown climbs up the front of the fence and down the back of it like Spider-Man, sneaks through the front door with a loud clack and squeak, sneaks down the hallway to the classroom, walking right into the slightly ajar door, stepping in and closing it behind him, and crawling over to his desk and taking his seat. He thinks he's safe, but then, Linus blurts out, "How come you're late, Charlie Brown?" which gets the attention of the teacher, who asks him the same question. Telling the teacher of his excuse, he initially says that it's a long story that began the day before, and when apparently asked to clarify, he loses his cool and yells, "Because I missed that stupid bus! That's why!" He immediately realizes the mistake he just made and, sure enough, after a fade to black, he's shown walking to the principal's office. He thinks to himself, "Plead my cause, oh, lord, with them that strive with me. Fight against them that fight against me. Deliver me from the hand of them that persecute me," but all he can actually say is, "My stomach hurts." Walking inside, he tells the person at the desk that he's supposed to see the principal and why, and in the next cut, he's sitting on a chair in his office, still waiting for him. The school bell rings for recess and Charlie Brown laments that he's probably missed his last chance to talk to the little red-haired girl. Jumping up and running to the window, he looks out to catch a glimpse of her, but doesn't get to look long before the principal yells at him. He sheepishly says, "I was told by my teacher to come to your office. You have a nice office. How are you and the PTA getting along?", the last part with a big, cheesy smile on his face. Following that, he's sent back to class and, as soon as he sits down, the teacher speaks to him again. He tells her that he did his math homework, including problem seven. Thinking it will really impress the little red-haired girl, he walks to the blackboard and draws up a very complex, college-level problem. The teacher asks him what he's doing and, looking at the problem, he admits, "I don't have the slightest idea." Like the day before, he gets laughed at and walks back to his desk, completely humiliated.

Knowing that his last chance to meet the little red-haired girl is after school, Charlie Brown decides to rush out as soon as the bell rings so he can catch her before she gets on the bus. When that time comes (apparently, school let out at noon, according to the clock on the wall), he does just that, getting ahead of the large exodus of kids coming out of the school and reaching the bus. He looks for the girl but is unable find her in the thick crowd and the bus, loaded with all of the kids, quickly drives away from him. Believing he's failed completely, he yells, "Oh, rats!", but then notices a note in his hand that was passed to him amongst the crowd. Reading it, he sees that it's supposedly from the little red-haired girl and she's telling him that she likes him. The reason why I say "supposedly" is because there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that it really was her who slipped him the note, and for that matter, why would she call herself "little red-haired girl" rather than use her actual name? I've read that, in the story from the comic strip that this part is based on, it's made more clear that it is a mean prank but I guess they decided to leave it out here, given all the crap poor Charlie Brown has been put through here (although, having the feeling that it's a prank is actually worse than knowing for sure). In any case, Charlie Brown is ecstatic to read this and happily dances his way home, feeling that, come September, nobody will laugh at him ever again. He goes on about what he'll be able to do with her, his voice slowly fading in favor of the music (if you listen, you can hear the dialogue being repeated), when, after the credits, he exclaims, "Good grief! How will I live until September?!"

The special has a short title song called Poor Little Charlie Brown, sung by the West Hillsborough School Choir, which is all about assuring him that things will get better, with lyrics like, "Don't let them get you down, you'll have your day, she'll come your way." However, it also serves as the basis for that mocking song that Lucy and Violet hit him with when they find out about his crush on the little red-haired girl, so it ends up being tainted somewhat by the end of the special. In any case, Vince Guaraldi used that song as a general leitmotif for Charlie Brown's dilemma, as you often hear an instrumental version of it, be it a soft, solemn piano one for when he and Linus are walking to school at the beginning and when he sees her while on his way home, a strumming, string one when he plans to meet her at the bus stop, or a more peppy one that plays at the end, when it seems like he's scored a victory in learning that she likes him (that said, given how we've now heard how that melody can be put to a cruel, mocking song, coupled with how it's unclear if the little red-haired girl wrote the note he ended up with, that peppy piano piece can also take on a darker connotation). Other memorable pieces from this special include another sad-sounding tune played when Charlie Brown is having a miserable lunch hour, a rather harsh-sounding piano piece that's played whenever Lucy gets involved, and a light-hearted, lively piano/horn combination for when Charlie Brown heads out to the bus stop early in the morning.

In retrospect, You're in Love, Charlie Brown probably wasn't the best Peanuts special to do for Valentine's Day, going to show that, just like books and their covers, you can't judge something solely by its title. This is definitely one of the most significant examples of Charlie Brown's role as life's punching bag, as the story is little more than him getting repeatedly embarrassed, humiliated, and mocked due to the crush he has for a classmate, as well as him constantly missing his chance to interact with said crush (be it through his own fault or not). Even the ending may not be as happy as it seems and there are also scenes and characters that are placed in the story in ways that make them feel arbitrary and out of place, as well as moments of weird animation and character designs looking off. On the plus side, there are some interesting stylistic choices in Bill Melendez's direction, both visual and audio, the backgrounds and environments in certain scenes are nice to look at, the way the little red-haired girl is kept as an offscreen figure of unrequited love for Charlie Brown is unique, the special is noteworthy for some innovations (namely the introduction of Peppermint Patty and the first use of trombone sounds for adult dialogue), the music is good, and there are some genuinely funny parts. It is a very mixed bag of a special and while I would recommend checking it out at least once, you'd best prepare yourself for some fairly messed-up stuff for something family-oriented.