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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang(1968)
A wacky inventor creates a super-car that can float as well as fly, and, along with his children, uses it to rescue his kidnapped father from an evil prince.
For more about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray release, see the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray Review
Starring: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Fröbe, Anna Quayle, Benny Hill
Director: Ken Hughes
» See full cast & crew
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray Review
May give adults road rage, but it’ll get kids racing ‘round the track.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 4, 2010
When I told my wife last night that we would be watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, she told me it was one of her childhood favorites. She also said there's an evil witch in the film who abducts children and turns them into wooden dolls. There isn't. There is, however, a creepy long- nosed "Child Catcher," but he's a male, and he doesn't turn anyone into wood, although the main character do, at one point, disguise themselves as Jack-in-the-Box figures. It all goes to show that the things we loved as kids get distorted in our memories when we're older, like how a childhood home seems so small today, even though it looked like a palatial mansion at age five. That's why it's often so painful to revisit once-beloved films years later, only to realize that, well, they're not quite as mindblowingly amazing as we thought they were. Such is the case with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which simply doesn't hold up to adult sensibilities. It's scatterbrained and overlong, a helter-skelter amalgam of madcap antics, mushy songs, and set-pieces that are all spectacle and little substance. The memories we associate with watching the film are much better than the film itself. Still, there's a certain value in this kind of nostalgia, and as far as kids' movies go, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is far better than most of the puerile nonsense that gets dribbled out into theaters these days. It may not be an unqualified classic, but it's kooky and fun and fully capable of blowing the minds of a new generation of youngsters.
The film has quite a pedigree. Based on a children's book by Ian Fleming—yes, of James Bond fame—the screenplay was co-written by kid-lit titan Roald Dahl, and the music and lyrics composed by the Sherman Brothers, who were hot off the Oscar-winning success of Mary Poppins. The story, set in the 1910s, concerns Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke), an eccentric widower, father of two, and inventor of sometimes-functional Rube Goldberg devices. Along with his young children, Jeremy (Adrian Hall) and Jemima (Heather Ripley), and their Grandpa (Lionel Jeffries), an old- school imperialist adventurer, Potts lives in a rickety windmill somewhere in the English countryside. No one cares to explain why he speaks with an American accent, but I suppose it doesn't matter. He's a loving dad, and when his kids beg him to restore a junked Grand Prix motorcar, Potts goes above and beyond the call of fatherly duty, tricking the car out like a turn-of-the-century episode of Pimp My Ride. They name the car "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," after the sound the engine makes, and they set out for a trip to the seaside, accompanied by a bonneted Sally Anne Howes as Truly Scrumptious—there's a Bond-girl name for you—the daughter of a local confectionary magnate. Truly and Potts don't get along, but hey, this is a movie musical, and you know damn well that by the end they'll be head over heels in lovey-dovey love.
Only, it takes forever to get there. At 145-minutes, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang could use some serious trimming, and I'd start by completely cutting the song "Lovely Lonely Man," a sappy number sung by Truly that might as well be called "Pee Break" or "Feel Free to Fast Forward." It takes nearly an hour for the Potts clan to get to the seaside, and this is just the first act. From here, Caractacus tells Truly and the kids a story about how Baron Bomburst (Gert Fröbe), the roly-poly ruler of Vulgaria, wants to steal Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The story then becomes the movie—that is, we go into a kind of fairytale mode where Chitty can tool around on water and take to the skies—and the gang zips off to Vulgaria to hunt down Grandpa, who's been kidnapped by the evil baron. The change in tone is pretty drastic, and once they arrive in Vulgaria—a land where all children have been banished—the film's insanity snowballs and the whole shebang careens out of control. If you've ever tried to tell a child a story and found that it's actually quite hard to improvise a narrative, and that to keep the momentum going you have to toss in all sorts of crazy non sequiturs and twists, then you'll recognize that same sense of uh, what happens now abandon in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Kids love this stuff because it's wacky and funny and unexpected, but as an adult, you may find yourself asking, "Where is this going?"
And that's fine. This is a kids' movie after all, and while I never saw it as a child, I can see how the young me would've been totally over the moon for it. There's a clunky old car that can fly! A zeppelin towing the world's tiniest house! The kids live in a freaking windmill! The songs are clap your hands and sing along-worthy, and the special effects, while shoddy by today's standards, have a certain lo-fi charm. Like Willy Wonka, there's a surprising amount of satisfying creepiness as well, mostly manifest in Child Catcher (Robert Helpmann), the scary-ass villain who looks, as my wife so eloquently put it, "like a cross between Ichabod Crane and Marilyn Manson." Seriously, he's the stuff of childhood nightmares, a lanky, stringy-haired, dressed-in-all-black figure who carries around an enormous net. You know, for child catchin'. It's terrifying. On the other hand, you have Dick Van Dyke, who seems—from a child's perspective—like the perfect father: he doesn't care if Jeremy and Jemima skip school, he's utterly devoted to ensuring their happiness, and he acts like a kid himself, going off on endless flights of imaginative fancy. Who wouldn't want Dick Van Dyke as a dad?
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray, Video Quality
Films shot in 70mm look absolutely amazing on Blu-ray. They just do. (See The Sound of Music, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Baraka for proof.) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is no exception. Filmed using the Super Panavision 70 format—which delivered a huge fine-grained negative—the musical has been given a fantastic restorative overhaul, resulting in a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that displays a remarkable amount of fine detail. Check out the weft of Dick Van Dyke's corduroy coat. Examine the craggy rocks by the seaside. Look at the surfaces of the titular car, the minutiae of the sets, the texture of the actors' faces. I could go on and on. Color is gorgeous as well, with bright primaries, creamy skin tones, and a sense of dense saturation overall. All of this is aided by deep blacks, perfect shadow delineation—no crush here—and tight contrast, giving the picture plenty of depth and presence. Furthermore, grain is thin and natural, the print is spotless, and there's no evidence of any unnecessary digital tinkering. I caught a few instances of moiré-ish shimmer, most noticeably on the close parallel lines of Chitty's front grill, but otherwise there are no overt film-to-digital related distractions. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang doesn't look quite as spectacular as The Sound of Music—the other 70mm film being released this week—but the image is excellent throughout. I'd even say very nearly perfect.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like The Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's soundtrack has been updated to a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround mix, and the results are outstanding. As a musical, most of the audio emphasis here is understandably on the songs, and they sound great. The score is rich and defined, and the 7.1 presentation allows the music to emerge from every corner of your home theater, with plenty of space for each instrument to sound clear and distinct. From the opening, which has motorcars zipping in circles around and around—literally making loops through the rear channels— it's clear that the surround speakers are going to get a lot of play. And, no surprise, many of the cross-channel movements involve Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, bang banging this way and that through the soundfield. The carnival scene even features a good deal of ambience, with barkers hawking their wares, music lulling in the background, and the murmur of the crowd. There are a few instances when dialogue—sung or spoken—seems a bit low in the mix, but never to the point where it's unintelligible. Most of the time, the singing is bright and clear.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sing-Along (1080p, 44:16 total)
Activate this mode and you'll get karaoke-style lyrics across the bottom of the screen during the film. You can also select and play the songs individually.
Music Machine (1080p, 44:16)
Basically, Sing-Along mode, but without the scrolling lyrics.
Chitty Chitty's Bang Bang Driving Game (1080p)
A simple interactive driving game, where you use the left and right buttons on your remote to steer Chitty Chitty Bang Bang through four different courses.
Toot Sweet Toots Musical Maestro (1080p)
Another game, only this one can be played during the film itself. Different colors sweets appear on the screen, and you have to memorize the order and then press the corresponding red, green, blue, or yellow buttons on your remote.
Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Dick Van Dyke (SD, 25:58)
Van Dyke sits down to reminisce about the making of the film, interspersed with many, many clips from the movie.
A Fantasmagorical Motorcar (SD, 9:44)
Pierre Picton, owner of two of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang motorcars, discusses how he got involved with the film.
Sherman Brothers' Demos (audio only, 30:20)
A rare demo tape of Richard and Robert Sherman performing some of their still-in-development songs for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
A collection of vintage promos, profiles, and and interviews.
Vintage Advertising Gallery
Includes the U.S. Theatrical Trailer (1080p, 3:20), the French Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:37), and five TV Spots (SD, 1:01).
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
What a week for family friendly musicals, right? Both The Sound of Music and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang have been remarkably re- mastered, and while the latter isn't quite as universally popular as the former, it's been given just as much restorative love and attention, with a new high definition transfer and lossless 7.1 surround sound. The film is much longer than it needs to be, but it's goofy and fun, and if you enjoyed it as a child, chances are, your kids will like it too. Recommended!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Other Editions
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Buy Sound of Music and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray, Save $5 - November 2, 2010
Retail chain Target is offering a $5 discount to customers who buy its exclusive Blu-ray/DVD book edition of The Sound of Music together with the Blu-ray release of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Thus, you can buy both movies for a total of $34.98.
• Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Blu-ray Announced - September 9, 2010
MGM Home Entertainment has officially announced and detailed the 1968 family classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for Blu-ray release on November 2, in a BD/DVD combo edition (a DVD/BD combo in DVD packaging will also be available separately). This "all-new remastered" ...
• Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Up for Pre-order - July 17, 2010
Fans of the 1968 fantasy filled classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will be glad to hear that web giant Amazon has placed this Blu-ray up for pre-order. No date is listed but they have clued us in on that it will be a Blu-ray + DVD combo packaging as well as a DVD ...
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