tek's rating: ¾

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (G)
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Caution: spoilers.

This is based on a 1964 book by Ian Fleming, which I haven't read. The movie came out in 1968, seven years before I was born. I'm sure I watched it sometime during my childhood in the 1980s, but I didn't remember much about it. I remembered part of the title song, and that there was a flying car after which the movie is named, and that there was a character named Truly Scrumptious. I think that's all. I didn't even remember that it starred Dick Van Dyke. Although I do want to say that I remember when Vanilla Ice was accused of stealing the bassline from the Queen song "Under Pressure" for his song "Ice Ice Baby", I thought Queen stole the bassline from this movie's title song.

It begins... actually with a black screen for awhile, with car race noises. That didn't last too long, but at least long enough for me to start wondering if there was something wrong with the DVD. But after awhile we get to see the car races. There are a few Grand Prix races in 1908-09, and in the end, one car crashes and burns. Sometime later we see that car in a junk yard or something. (Maybe it wasn't anything like a junk yard, I dunno.) There are two young children named Jemima and Jeremy, who like to imagine they're racing in it. (They imagine lots of things, apparently.) One day the man who owns the car gets an offer from a man who wants to buy the car and melt it down for its iron, or whatever. The kids are devastated, and make a deal with the owner that if they can get their dad to buy it before the other guy returns in a few days, they can have it instead of him. But their father, an inventor named Caractacus Potts (Van Dyke), can't afford it. Before they can even get home to ask him about it, they're chastised by a woman name Truly Scrumptious for running in the road, where she nearly hit them in her car. She gives them a ride home, so she can talk to their father about them not being in school. That doesn't go too well, and she leaves.

Later, Caractacus realizes some candy he's made that accidentally has holes in it can be used as a whistle, and he tries to sell the product to a candy maker who turns out to be Truly's father. That also doesn't go so well, although Truly and Caractacus do end up becoming friendly with each other. Later still, Caractacus goes to a carnival to try making money with one of his other inventions, and that doesn't go well, either. But he does make some money while performing with a singing and dancing troupe, to hide out from a rightfully angry customer. So he finally buys the car for his kids, and because of the noise it makes, he names it "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". I'm sure I've forgotten plenty of details of the story, because he doesn't get the car until quite a ways into the film (though still not even halfway through it, because it's a long movie, almost two and a half hours). But he goes to work fixing it up, and it ends up looking surprisingly nice. He and the kids and Truly go for a ride to have a picnic on the beach. Caractacus tells them a story that starts out about pirates, led by Baron Bomburst, the ruler of a country called Vulgaria. He wants to capture the car, but it manages to get away from him when it turns out it can float like a motorized raft. They go home after that, but it the baron sends a couple of bumbling spies to get the car. They end up kidnapping the children's Grandpa, hooking up his little shed (which is no bigger than a phone booth) to be carried away by a zeppelin, and taken to Vulgaria. They think he's the inventor, and force him and some other old men to try to make another car float. Meanwhile, it turns out that CCBB can also fly, and Caractacus, the kids, and Truly all chase after them to rescue Grandpa.

They get to a village outside the baron's castle, where they meet a toymaker (played by Benny Hill) who helps them. It turns out that children are forbidden in Vulgaria, because the baroness doesn't like them. So there's a creepy child catcher who catches any children that are found, so Jemima and Jeremy have to hide from him (and the Vulgarian army, who capture CCBB while the people are all hiding). Eventually the child catcher does catch Jemima and Jeremy, and Caractacus is determined to rescue them, as well as Grandpa. The toymaker takes him to a cave under the castle where a bunch of children are hiding out. Caractacus comes up with a plan to rescue the children the next day, which is the baron's birthday. I should also mention that the baron "comically" often tries and fails to kill his wife, though I have no idea why, and she seems oblivious to this. She clearly loves him, and he at least pretends to love her. But about the rescue plan... I don't want to spoil what that plan actually entails, but it's probably my favorite part of the movie.

And that's all I want to say about the plot. I will say that for much of the movie, I found the story a bit tedious, to the point that I was only going to give the movie one smiley (and that felt almost generous). But there were enough bits I liked, especially the rescue, as I said. There are also some decent songs. The only ones I had remembered even a little bit were the title song and one about Truly Scrumptious, but one I didn't remember, which I liked, was "Posh!", which was sung by Grandpa while he was being kidnapped. Because of the parts of the movie that I liked, I added three quarters to the one smiley. I still don't feel like the movie is quite memorable enough to give it two whole smileys, though I probably liked it better when I was a kid. It probably deserves a higher rating than I've given it, and I feel bad about that. It's really a decent movie, if not as consistently entertaining as some other movies. (This was made by United Artists because of Disney's success with Mary Poppins a few years earlier, so it has a similar vibe, in addition to both movies having Van Dyke in them, but it's nowhere near that level of quality.)

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