tek's rating:

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (G)
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Caution: spoilers.

This came out in 1971 (four years before I was born). I saw it at least once when I was a kid in the 1980s, probably on The Wonderful World of Disney, though it's also possible we had it on VHS. I'm writing this review after watching it on DVD in 2021, and this version is longer than the version I originally saw. (It's also longer than the version on any of the streaming sites above.) So it's not surprising there are some things I didn't remember, but then, there are definitely parts I did see before that I also didn't remember. My main memories of it are the songs "Portobello Road" and "The Beautiful Briny".

It's set in 1940 (a fact I had forgotten). That's an important fact, for a couple of reasons, one at the start of the movie and one at the end. First, it's set in a small seaside town where children had been sent from London to stay during the Blitz. Three of them, Charlie, Carrie, and Paul are reluctantly taken in by a woman named Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury). It soon turns out that she is an apprentice witch, who has been taking a correspondence course in witchcraft from a school in London, run by Professor Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson, from Mary Poppins). When the children discover that Miss Price is a witch, Charlie decides to blackmail her, and that includes her enchanting a bedknob for their use, which she gives to Paul, the youngest of the children. When reattached to the bed Paul had taken it from, it can be used to transport people anywhere they want to go. When Miss Price learns that she won't be receiving the final spell she was waiting for, due to the school being shut down, she decides to travel via the bed to London, to meet Professor Browne in person.

It turns out that he's a charlatan, not really a professor at all, a fact he doesn't bother to hide. In fact he sings about it while trying to sell people phony magical items, insisting they'll want to buy them because he has a flair. (His flair is somewhat underwhelming.) When Miss Price and the children meet him, he explains that he'd gotten the spells from an old book he'd bought, which had been torn in two during a struggle with the book's seller, and he doesn't actually have the spell Miss Price wants. They go to Portobello Road to try to find the missing part of the book, and eventually (after a long song and dance number) they find it, but it doesn't contain the spell, either. It merely said where to get it. The magic words are inscribed on a pendant, the Star of Astaroth, which is currently in the possession of the king of an island called Naboombu. They use the bed to travel there, where all the residents are animated animals. (The king is a lion, and I think I may have to some extent confused this part of the movie with Robin Hood, because they didn't spend quite as much time on the island as I'd remembered.) Mr. Brown has to referee a soccer match between the animals, and I was surprised to hear it called "soccer", considering the main characters are all from England. But at least Charlie did call it "football" at one point.

Anyway, they eventually return to Miss Price's house, where she tests out the spell she'd been looking for, "substitutiary locomotion", which brings inanimate objects to life. At first the spell didn't seem to work, so of course Mr. Browne and the children turn the magic words into a song (which kind of reminded me of part of the opening theme from Laverne & Shirley). The spell finally works, and they later have to use it against some Nazis who stage a raid of the town, to spread panic. But it's the Nazis themselves who end up panicking when an army of empty armor attacks them.

I guess that's all I want to say about the plot. Of course I'm leaving out plenty of details, and songs. I just want to say that I found the movie very charming, fun, and amusing. I definitely liked the special effects both of the live-action actors interacting with animated animals (especially the part under the sea during the "Beautiful Briny" song) and of the armor fighting the Nazis. And I liked all the main characters.

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