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(I added a verse or two, but this one is best sung to the title song)
 
Back when cars were rather rare,
A couple little kids admire one.
Though it’s needing some repair,
The both of them are keen to see it run.
 
Their dad by the name of Potts
Assembles new inventions, odd but cool.
It’s clear that he loves them lots,
But doesn’t quite ensure they go to school.
 
That’s why pretty Truly comes,
For Truly Scrumptious is her name.
Potts does not approve her prying,
Though she’s right all the same.
There’s a candy he’s been trying
That might just earn him fame.
 
He tries then to sell his sweets,
Which one toots before he eats,
And Truly assists him with the treats.
They call dogs regrettably,
But not too forgettably,
And Potts is distressed by defeats.
 
But he tries to buy the car,
Because his kids have said it will be scrap,
So he grows into a star
By dancing after shaving bald a chap.
 
When he’s got it looking new,
And Truly joins them for a picnic drive,
Potts tells them a tale or two
With characters that seem to come alive.
 
In this story that he tells,
Their magic car is wanted by
Some fat villain known as Bomburst,
Who sees it float and fly.
He steals Grandpa, who is coerced
To build the car or die.
 
The four follow, as they ought,
But soon both the kids are caught,
For children are outlawed, they forgot.
Potts rescues the kids with skill,
Assisted by Benny Hill;
To Bomburst, a lesson is taught!
 
Back in the real world, where things are not as bright,
Both Mr. Potts and Truly show they care.
But it is not till his doggie treats take flight
That they discern they make a lovely pair.
 
Since both the children delightedly approve,
They take another wondrous drive,
On their Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,
The finest car alive,
On their Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,
The finest car alive!
_________________
 

With a script written by director Ken Hughes and the great children’s author Roald Dahl, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is no Oscar-winning drama or beautiful piece of cinematic art; it’s a fun, kid-friendly romp and an entertaining bit of nostalgia from my and my parents’ childhoods. It’s not quite on the level of Mary Poppins, but it’s in the same vein of musical rollick through the imagination. Based off the book by Ian Fleming (yes, that Ian Fleming), the film’s focus on two children, songs written by the Sherman brothers, and the presence of Dick Van Dyke may make it seem like a Mary Poppins wannabe, but it’s an imaginative classic in its own right.

Like Poppins’ Bert, the role of Caractacus Potts puts Dick Van Dyke in his element, sprightly dancing, vivid imagination, and lovable chemistry with the two kids. The film’s plot is rather thin, to be honest, but the characters and songs fill it with charm. Baron Bomburst is made hilariously childish by Gert Fröbe (a.k.a. Goldfinger; the James Bond tie-ins continue; Albert Broccoli produced as well), and Robert Helpmann is genuinely frightful as the wicked Child Catcher. Did I mention Benny Hill is in it too?

Though some critics were rather harsh toward them, the Sherman brothers’ musical numbers are especially memorable. The title song is one of those classic 1960s tunes that easily get stuck in one’s head, but then again, so are most of them. “Posh!” puts Lionel Jeffries’ distinctive voice to good use, and “The Roses of Success” is a catchy little motivational speech. While “Hushabye Mountain” is a sweet lullaby (used in a much darker scene in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds), my favorite is “Me Ol’ Bamboo,” which easily matches Van Dyke’s energy in Poppins’ “Step in Time.” “Toot Sweets” probably has the best choreography though. The Bombursts’ “Chu-Chi Face” is the only song that serves little to no purpose and definitely could have been cut.

Much of the film’s appeal is for children and those who fondly remember seeing it as children. It’s certainly not perfect. The “magic” of bluescreen is obvious in the driving scenes, and the other special effects are lacking as well, though Mr. Potts’s inventions are fascinating to look at. Portions of the story within the plot are overly silly too, such as the bumbling spies sent to capture the car, who might as well be called the Two Stooges.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang may not be award-worthy or deep in any meaningful sense, but it’s the kind of innocent, nostalgia-generating tale that isn’t made anymore. Kids’ movies nowadays have to include talking animals or constant explosions or toilet humor or pop culture references to hold their attention; this film succeeds with its own earnestness and inventive sense of fun. Which do you think is better?

Best line: (old inventor #1, describing to Grandpa the realities of working for Baron Bomburst) “They have terrible tortures: the thumb-screw, the rack….”
(old inventor #2) “They stretch you and streeeetch you.”
(unusually tall inventor #3, walking up) “When I first got here, I was a midget.”

 

Artistry: 5
Characters/Actors: 8
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 3
Originality: 9
Watchability: 9
Other (memorable music): +3
 
TOTAL: 46 out of 60
 

Next: #160 – Monsters, Inc.

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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