More than a decade after Charles Schulz's death (February 2000), his strip continues in reruns and the characters can be seen everywhere. But the key artists who made the classic TV specials have passed away, and their absence is evident in Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown
. The film was cowritten by Schulz's son Craig and Pearls Before Swine
creator Stephan Pastis, who based it on two old continuities about Lucy trying to break Linus of his blanket habit. In early 1961, she buried it; she made the blanket into a kite that blew out to sea in mid-1962. Those stories don't really mesh, and the slack direction by Andy Beall and Frank Molieri doesn't help. The film rambles amiably but aimlessly, pausing at familiar scenes of Shroeder playing Beethoven, Charlie Brown trying to fly a kite, and Lucy at her psychiatry stand, but it never attains a sense of momentum. The well-known characters sound cross and sarcastic--more like the cast of Pastis's edgy, mean-spirited Pearls
than Schulz's whimsical creation. Mark Mothersbaugh's score lacks the upbeat charm of Vince Guaraldi's classic jazz tracks, and the animation is uneven. During one of the many false endings of Warm Blanket
, Linus stands atop Snoopy's doghouse and decries the insecurities of Lucy, Sally, Schroeder, and Charlie Brown in a moment that's completely out of character. Is this really supposed to be the Linus who set the tone for years of specials when he quietly recited the Gospel of St. Luke in A Charlie Brown Christmas
? (Unrated: suitable for ages 5 and older) --Charles Solomon
Linus is pushed to his limits when he learns grandma is coming to visit and plans on ridding him of his childish security blanket. As grandma’s arrival looms closer the Peanuts gang tries to help Linus learn to cope without his fuzzy crutch. Lucy is particular eager to cure Linus’ dependency using her own psychiatric techniques, and while Charlie Brown tries to help he just doesn’t have the heart to see Linus suffer. All the while Snoopy is constantly agitating matters because he wants the blanket for himself. In the end, insightful Linus points out that everyone has their own type of “security blanket” and in life a little security is a valuable thing.