It feels like Charlie Brown has always been a part of my life. Other than his family and the Red Sox, Charlie Brown is probably my dad’s favorite thing, so that’s the main reason the good ol’ Blockhead has always been around. But he wasn’t begrudgingly so. Between He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, and of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas, I watched a fair share of the Peanuts cartoons that have been released over the years, and since my dad is such a big fan, I’ve read plenty of the comic compilation books as well. But with all of this, I never bothered to learn much about Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Charlie Brown and all his friends.
So that’s where Who Are You, Charlie Brown?, the documentary from Apple TV+, came in to fill some gaps. At just 54 minutes, it’s barely a feature film, but if you have any sort of connection to the Peanuts gang, it’s worth a watch. It gives the bare bones of Schulz’s life, while glossing over the ways he made such an impact on popular culture with his iconic characters.
This little doc won’t give you a huge amount in terms of information about Schulz himself — it feels like it’s trying to stay easily digestible and family friendly — but it’s definitely enough to help you gain an extra bit of appreciation for such an influential man. We’re treated to three different types of vignettes: small sections of a typical Peanuts short where Charlie Brown has to write an essay about who he is; interviews with those close to him, including his wife and publisher, talking about what Schulz (or, Sparky, as those close to him called him) was like as a person and professional; and interviews with celebrities like Kevin Smith, Drew Barrymore, and Al Roker, who talk about what different aspects of Peanuts have meant to them over the years.
Who Are You, Charlie Brown? isn’t groundbreaking, and it won’t be up for Best Documentary at the Oscars, but as a lifelong fan of this comic strip and these characters, it’s completely worth a watch. The cartoon sections with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the crew are as innocent, sincere, and entertaining as ever, even if the voice actors do sound a bit off. They bring the necessary amount of childlike enjoyment and wonder that these characters deserve and are known for. There’s a formula that’s worked over the last 60 years and it hasn’t been changed, so seeing this group of characters come together for their usual shenanigans is always a welcome sight.
The actual documentary aspects of this film work to a lesser extent, but they work nonetheless. It checked off the minimum requirement of me learning a thing or two about the life of Schulz, so I appreciated it on that level at least. As I said, the documentary is bare bones and gives a bird’s eye view of Schulz’s life and influence, so the film doesn’t make any grand point about things. But it leaves a good taste in your mouth and warms your heart with the inspiration and positivity that one man was able to bring to so many people with his genuine, relatable, and inclusive comic strip.