You're familiar with the anti-commercialism message of A Charlie Brown Christmas, right? You remember how Charlie Brown adopted the one sad little tree, and how Linus read from the Bible, and how everyone sang "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"?
Tonight, the original special plays on ABC at 8:00 p.m., but if you're jonesing to pay seven dollars for that anti-commercialism message, you can pick it up for $6.99 for your tablet or your smartphone!
The Charlie Brown Christmas app allows you to read the story told in the special, while you look at what are primarily still drawings, though they occasionally move around a little bit, kind of like paper dolls. You can hear the story narrated by Peter Robbins, the original voice of Charlie Brown, with much of the show's audio dropped in, so that you hear the original voices. You can also read the book with the narration off but the music on, so that you can read it to yourself (or presumably your child) with the music on. That part is pretty cool. Seven dollars of cool? I don't think so.
There are one or two other little things in the app — during the dancing-around scene, there's a piano keyboard where you can tap out the iconic "Linus And Lucy" theme. There's a tree-decorating game, but it's very bare-bones. The app's navigation is not intuitive, and on a phone, the words are incredibly tiny. Furthermore, if you think having an app freeze is less annoying when it does it while children are singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," you would be sorely mistaken.
The irony of this particular app, overpriced as it is compared to other similar products, is fairly blunt. Here is Charlie Brown, waving the flag for the true meaning of Christmas, extended-line-of-merchandise-style! Do you love Charlie Brown's salute to simplicity? BUY THIS!
But honestly, that irony probably wouldn't matter if it were a more impressive product. After all, you can buy the entire special as a DVD or a digital download for 10 bucks, and watch it on your iPad or your phone whenever you want. The app is cute, and if it cost a dollar, or even two, I'd say it was right up there with the other cute games you can play on your phone or your tablet. (I tested it on both my Android phone and my Kindle Fire.) But at seven dollars, it feels a bit like a seasonal gouging, like Santa coming down the chimney and leaving a brochure for a bulk sale of fireplace logs.