Title: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Wacky inventor builds a super car that can do pretty much anything (boat, plane, etc.) Evil Baron wants it, accidentally captures Grandad – adventure, kidnapping, and revolution follow.
Ages 6 and up
For the first few years that we watched this I only showed the first half of the movie to the kids along with select musical numbers from the second half. I well remember how freaked out I was by the kid catcher and kept that part of the film well away from my kids until they were ready. Once they were ready they acknowledged his creepiness but were not terrified by him. I can’t stress enough that you should treat certain parts of this kid movie with kid gloves. It’s not one you can just set the kids in front of and walk away.
The kid catcher is the number one warning. Young children should not be exposed to that part of the movie. Even as your children get older you should be mindful of some of the content.
The villains shoot a fair number of cannon but they are, with the exception of the kid catcher, comically melodramatic and most of their actions can be viewed as simple slapstick.
At the very beginning of the movie we see the car that will become Chitty Chitty Bang Bang participating in a number of races. At the end of the British Grand Prix the car is destroyed in a fiery crash after avoiding running over a little girl and her dog. For years we couldn’t watch this sequence because our son was hysterical over the fate of the little girl, the driver, and the car, which pulls up right in front of the camera and then explodes in flame.
Truly Scrumptious’ musical number “Lovely Lonely Man” has to be one of the most boring songs from any musical ever. I highly recommend you skip it. UPDATE: my son disagrees, he says “Hushabye Mountain” is the most boring song ever and the Dad sings it TWICE. You’ve been warned.
The Baron and Baroness sing a song where he is trying to kill her and she is dancing around in her 19th century underwear. I’ve read that people consider her costume lewd for a children’s film. In my opinion these people don’t really understand the nature of 19th century underwear.
As you may know the movie is based on a book by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. As such, it carries a number of Bondian traits including the super car and women with names like Truly Scrumptious. Over the years I’ve heard people complain that the book is better than the movie but having experienced both I have to disagree and for one major reason. Famous children’s author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among others) wrote the screenplay and changed the story so much that he basically turned it into another of his books. Ultimately I consider this as much a Roald Dahl story as an Ian Fleming story. Dahl brings a distinct menace to his story, as he does with so many of his books and I think the film is better for it – barring the few exceptions I make above.
You may want to start with the musical numbers. If you don’t think your kids are ready for the kid catcher or some of the other menacing characters you can still have a good time with the songs. The eponymous song “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is great fun as are the kids singing “Truly Scrumptious”. I developed a joke with our kids where we would start to complain every time Truly barged in on someone else’s song. Sally Ann Howes has a strong voice and she can’t help but steamroll over everyone else and take over a song every time she joins in. Happily, she has no part in our favorite Grandpa songs, “The Posh Posh Travelling Life” or “The Roses of Success”. Other good musical numbers include the candy factory spectacle “Toot Sweets” and the novelty dance number “Me Ol Bamboo”.
Ultimately I think you’ll either love the movie or hate it but as long as you approach it judiciously I think it can be a worthwhile entertainment.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment or have something to add?
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Let me know what you think.