A couple months ago I did a review of “Pete’s Dragon” which I rated on the “Mary Poppins” scale (“Mary Poppins” being the Disney musical that all others are judged by) and it was found lacking. I’m happy to say, that this film, judged on the same scale is infinitely better, and while not quite the classical that Poppins is, it is a great family film and I highly recommend it to anyone with children or for anyone who remembers the film from their childhood and wonders if it’s still interesting enough to watch now. It is, so buy…more after the jump:
I think the difference is that this film, although released after Walt Disney’s death, it was still developed under his auspices and still has the Disney feel. The backstory is that while they were developing Poppins, they ran into a snag in getting the rights to the character and so they looks around for something to take it’s place in development. “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” was chosen (based on the novel “The Magic Bedknob” by Mary Norton). The reasons are obvious. Both are English, both have the magical/surrogate mother figure, and both have cute little kids. The two films were developed simultaneously, but when Poppins rights question was resolved, Bedknobs was kicked to the curb. Almost a decade later the project was revived and pretty much the same crew as Poppins was brought on board to bring the project to the screen. I’ll take a beat to point out that both films are directed by journeyman director, Robert Stevenson (who also directed “Jane Eyre”, “Old Yeller”, and “The Love Bug”). This guy was a real talent and this film shows it. Further, the music was written by the Academy Award winning Sherman Brothers.
I’d also like to mention, as I did with “Pete’s Dragon”. I put the film to the “Teresa Test”. Teresa is my 5 year old daughter who has been raised on the complete Disney library and while she turned her nose up on “Pete’s Dragon”, she loved “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”.
As for the film itself, the premise is spectacular. A spinster, Eglantine Price (played by Angela Landsbury) living in the English Countryside, begins to quietly take a mail-order Witchcraft Course during the outbreak of World War II. Her studies are interrupted when three young orphans from London are placed in her care. The four of them quickly come to an understanding and together, they travel to London to hunt down the headmaster of the mail-order school, Professor Emelius Brown (played by David Tomlinson) who has suspended the courses before she can get the one spell that she has been waiting for. Hijinks ensue.
And I have yet to mention the best bit, the extended journey into the magical island of Naboombu. As in “Mary Poppins”, this is wonderful sequence in which the live action characters visit an animated world of talking animals. And that’s not even the climax of the movie!
I should also take a moment to say how much I enjoyed Angela Landsbury’s performance. Most people only think of Landsbury as the old lady on “Murder, She Wrote”, but that was only the end of life-long career that began with her playing hotties and distinguished Broadway career. To see her dancing and singing, is pretty nice and well worth the price of admission.
Well directed, great performances, and fun story; in short, this film works on every level and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun family film.
This disk is loaded with extras. My favorite bit was a thing called “Movie Magic” which is walk down memory lane with the surviving Sherman Brother. To hear him walk through the development of the film and discuss the writing of the music is incredible. There’s something about hearing someone talking about Walt Disney, someone that enjoyed the experience that I find particularly moving.
I liked this movie as a kid and I like it now. The added bonus of having the infamous missing musical number slipped back into the film makes this a great little addition. My only disappointment is that they have yet to find an Angela Landsbury song and dance number. She had nice legs and I would have like to have seen that.