Tuesday, April 12, 2022

It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown—on Apple TV+

Earth Day is one of the few “holidays” the Peanuts gang didn’t have a special for, until now. (To be fair, they had Arbor Day, which is pretty much the same thing, but a different day). Their latest special of the Apple era is indeed intended to commemorate Earth Day, but it works just as well for the opening of baseball season. Flowers will be planted, but it is unclear how much baseball will be played on Charlie Brown’s regular weed-infested field in Snoopy Presents: It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown, directed by Raymond S. Persi, which premieres Friday on Apple TV+.

Purists amongst us will be happy to see the black-headed kid’s name back on the title (they’re still using that “Snoopy Presents,” but whatever). Snoopy is a star, but Charlie Brown is the heart and soul of
Peanuts, partly because he is such an eternal optimist. This time he is convinced his baseball team can beat Peppermint Patty’s for the neighborhood pennant. It maybe wouldn’t be as crazy as it sounds, because he has them playing some pretty good ball. The thing is, he promised Sally she could play this year—and she is terrible on the field.

The real trouble comes when she gives up on playing and becomes fixated on a dandelion growing on the pitcher’s mound. Much to Charlie Brown’s frustration, her sudden enthusiasm for wild nature starts to catch on in the neighborhood and within his team.

None of Apple’s
Peanuts originals have quite matched the gentle wisdom of Charles Shulz’s writing, because how could they, but the previous For Auld Lang Syne came pretty close. Small Things also has some worthy sentiments, but it happens to be the first that really creates its own musical identity. In the past, Jeff Morrow’s music was nice, but clearly tried to evoke Vince Guaraldi’s classic themes, while staying appreciably different (presumably for legal and economic reasons).

This time around Ben Folds composed and performed a terrific original song, appropriately titled “It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown,” which features a super-catchy melody and thematically resonant lyrics. As the voice of Sally, Hattie Kragten is a showstopper singing Folds’ tune. Plus, Folds’ piano (or Schroeder’s piano) still harkens back to Guaraldi’s immortal sound. If it doesn’t win an Emmy next year, it will be a crying shame.

Nobody really cares about Earth Day right now, because it is a time of economic uncertainty. Instead, think of this as an opening day special.
Small Things has a lot of love for the game and also plenty of business for Snoopy. Highly satisfying for Peanuts fans, It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown starts streaming Friday (4/15) on Apple TV+.