With the proliferation of Halloween related movies and TV shows that abound, naming the greatest is a weighty task. Some prefer slashers greats, notably “Halloween,” others comedic horror flicks, like “The Evil Dead.” Then there’s the classic monster variety, preferring Universal and Hammer productions, and even family friendly fare such as “Hocus Pocus.” Despite the overabundance of varying festive films, there’s one movie to unite us all: “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” An undeniably adorable Peanuts, it demands an autumnal viewing each October.
Halloween is upon the Peanuts gang, and Linus (Christopher Shea) is gearing up not for trick or treating, but his annual wait for the Great Pumpkin. Essentially the Great Pumpkin is the Halloween version of Santa Claus. According to Linus he flies around with a sack of toys and delivers presents to the most sincere pumpkin patch. Each year, Linus writes a letter to the Great Pumpkin, much to the embarrassment of his sister Lucy (Sally Dryer).
Meanwhile Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) accidentally gets invited to Violet’s (Ann Altieri) Halloween party. Lucy cruelly explains that he was intended for the list of people not to invite. The kids go trick or treating, but Charlie Brown’s sister Sally (Kathy Steinberg) decides to keep Linus company in the pumpkin patch.
“It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie” is the greatest of the Halloween films. The Peanuts cartoon balances comedy and sentimentality wonderfully. The beginning features the recognizable scene of Charlie Brown attempting to kick a football held by Lucy, and falling flat on his back. A hilarious segment, the dialogue about notarized documents is sure to go over kids heads, but adults will get a chuckle.
This cross-generational appeal is precisely why “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” has morphed into the seasonal staple it is today. Children will laugh at the jokes, like Linus diving into a leaf pile with a lollipop, and Charlie Brown’s trouble with the scissors. Older audiences will appreciate the more mature aspects. There’s the WWI Flying Ace side story, which honestly doesn’t have any relevance other than Snoopy hams it up considerably. Most of all, however, adults glean the heartwarming message: Lucy and Linus, though outwardly opposite, aren’t that different. Linus is compassionate and idealistic, toting that ragged blanket around, while Lucy is boisterous and downright rude, particularly when interacting with poor Charlie Brown. The finale, where Lucy brings a shivering Linus in from the chilly pumpkin patch shows that Lucy’s heart isn’t as cold as we’re made to believe.
Overall, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” is a slice of perfection. There are so many ridiculous, though memorable, lines. During the entire night, Charlie Brown keeps getting rocks while trick or treating. This isn’t really explained, and it’s riotously funny. Charlie Brown’s downtrodden “I got a rock,” is devilishly quotable. Even the music sparkles. Vince Guaraldi’s score bounces around, setting the tone and offering a toe-tappingly delightful backdrop. Ultimately, with mass appeal and infinite replay value, Halloween isn’t official until the annual screening of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.”