“It’s my new wilderness adventure! The entire ‘Peanuts’ gang faces everything from bullies, to rampaging rapids, ‘Good Grief,’ will you have fun!”
This is what the movie poster for Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown declared; words splashed across the top of the one-sheet shouted by Charlie Brown in the form of a comic strip voice balloon. While paying its respects to Peanuts’s comic panel roots, the poster announced that Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown would be a big adventure for ol’ “Chuck” and the gang.
In the film, they wouldn’t be getting rocks for Halloween or decorating a doghouse for Christmas. They would be getting out of the neighborhood!
Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, follows Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Sally, Marcie, Schroeder, and Snoopy as they all head off to summer camp – “Camp Remote” to be exact,
When they arrive, they all must deal with a trio of bullies and their cat, Brutus. It’s these villainous bullies that Charlie Brown and the gang face off against in a raft race.
They are broken into teams: Charlie Brown, Linus, Schroeder, and Franklin, with Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Sally, and Lucy in another, and Snoopy and Woodstock in the third team.
Of course, the bullies attempt to cheat to win the raft race that comprises the third act of Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown. Does one of the Peanuts’ teams win? No spoilers here.
This very adventurous aspect separates Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, from other Peanuts outings. We not only get scenes with the gang challenging river rapids but Snoopy on a motorcycle (in an Easy Rider parody) and a scene where Charlie Brown and friends camp out overnight, where it snows (it’s never stated what time of year there in) and there’s talk of procuring a Christmas tree (it seems to always come back to holidays with the Peanuts gang!).
The screenplay for Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, was written by the creator of Peanuts, Charles Schulz – who wrote every Charlie Brown TV special and feature film in his lifetime. According to IMDb, Schulz went river rafting on the Rogue River in Oregon to do research for the film. But even though there is this bigger screen feeling, there’s still the Peanuts spirit at heart.
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown opened on August 24th, 1977, at the tail-end of “Star Wars Summer” and was a moderate box-office success, with some critics giving the film less-than-glowing reviews. In The New York Times, Janet Maslin called the film “…a series of droll blackout sketches, many of them ending with the obligatory ‘Good Grief!’…
However, it was home video and the early days of home video that allowed Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown to benefit from repeat viewings and become embraced by a generation. The film came out on VHS and Betamax (!) in 1979. It was also the first movie released on RCA’s now-defunct electronic disc (CED) format.
It’s that generation, and others who had discovered since, that look back fondly on Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, when the Peanuts gang left the neighborhood to face everything from “bullies to rampaging rapids.”
“Good Grief!” It was fun.