Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Movie Review
Based on a story by Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame), produced by Cubby Broccoli (of James Bond fame), and written by Roald Dahl (who knew a thing or two about scaring children), this gadgety fantasy finds unsuccessful inventor Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) working on a supercar that can both fly and float while also taking care of his dotty father (Lionel Jeffries) and his two children Jeremy and Jemimah (Adrian Hall and Heather Ripley). Also on hand, a potential love interest for Potts named Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes), heiress to the Toot Sweet candy fortune.
When word of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (so named for the weird sound it makes) reaches Baron Bomburst (Gert Fröbe... of James Bond fame), the repellent leader of the small middle European nation of Vulgaria, he decides to kidnap the car and its inventor, but he swipes Grandpa by mistake, and the rest of the clan races off to the kingdom to get him back. What they don't realize is that the Baron and his wife (Anna Quayle) have outlawed children, and no sooner do Potts' kids hit the ground then they are swept up and dragged away by the hideous child catcher, a guy so scary that pants must have been wetted all across America when he first appeared on screen. Potts and Truly will have to infiltrate the castle (the glorious Bavarian "Cinderella" castle called Neuschwanstein) in disguise (with the help of toymaker Benny Hill) to save his kids and all the other imprisoned children of Vulgaria.
It's quite an adventure, and it's interspersed with plenty of tunes, some, most notably the title track ("our fine four-fendered friend") quite catchy, others somewhat lugubrious. It's too long and drags during some of the romantic bits. After all, the question of whether a fine young lady like Truly could ever go for a crackpot like Potts will not interest the younger crowd.
What's interesting to note from today's vantage point is how Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is very much of its time, 1968 that is. This is one trippy flick, psychedelic and groovy and like a real freakout, dude. Come to think of it, it's like The Wizard of Oz in that sense, as well, but it lacks a compelling Dorothy character to root for. So stick this one in the DVD for the kids, and leave them alone with it. Just make sure you're around when they come running to you in a panic. The child catcher is after them!
What a Chitty wagon.