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Who Are You, Charlie Brown?


Who are You, Charlie Brown?
Apple Original scores with 2021's Who are You , Charlie Brown?, a lovingly mounted look at the legendary creator of the Peanuts comic strip, Charles M Schulz, that seamlessly provides surprises about the subject and provides a loving look at the characters that we all grew up with.

Director and co-screenwriter Michael Bonfiglio has provided an economic overview of the life and career of this iconic cartoonist, but made it infinitely more entertaining by framing it with an animated story where Charlie Brown receives a homework assignment where he has to sum up who he is in 500 words (thus the title of the documentary). It is this framework that takes this documentary a notch above most, because it is mounted with complete respect to the subject with surprisingly authentic detail that can be referenced in Schulz' work, pieced together from original strips and television specials without actually using work we have already seen.

One of the most pleasant surprises for this reviewer was when it is revealed that Charlie Brown is not based on Charles Schulz, but that there is a little bit of Charles Schulz in ALL of the characters he created for the strip. Another pleasant surprise was the reveal of the first official PEANUTS strip which featured Charlie Brown, Patty, and Shermy. Patty and Shermy were later reduced to minor characters after the appearances of Snoopy, Linus, and the bombastic Lucy.

Loved that the film paid special attention to Schulz' introduction of two characters to the strip many years after the strip started...Peppermint Patty was completely different from any other PEANIUTS character and the reveal of who was partial inspiration for the character was fantastic and the introduction of the strip's first black character, Franklin (whose last name is revealed here, which I never knew existed).

Found myself fighting tears when they showed Schulz' drawing hand getting shaky after being diagnosed with colon cancer and loved seeing the way PEANUTS has affected so many other artists. The film is narrated by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o and commentary is provided by Drew Barrymore, Kevin Smith, Paul Feig, Al Roker and a Jewish cartoonist named Ira Glass to whom Christmas means nothing but never missed a viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Treat yourself to this special look at a very special artist...it'll make you feel 10 years old again.