Starring: Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowall
Director: Robert Stevenson
Running Time: 117 mins
Bedknobs And Broomsticks is an American film about an apprentice witch and the three children she is looking after who team up with a magician conman on a journey through different worlds on a flying bed in order to help defend Britain during World War II.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Bedknobs And Broomsticks is exactly the same as Mary Poppins. Seriously, it feels like a carbon copy that’s just advanced a few decades from a Victorian setting to a wartime setting, with very little else in the way of genuinely lovable innovation.
Of course, the truth is that Bedknobs And Broomsticks was developed by Disney when it was struggling to get the rights to make a film of Mary Poppins (see Saving Mr. Banks for that excellent story). When it was picked up later in the ’60s, however, it feels like Disney didn’t really do much to change it, even with Mary Poppins having been unleashed into the public eye.
Now, I’ve never had an immense affection for Mary Poppins, and I can’t say that Bedknobs And Broomsticks was any different. Despite a couple of enjoyable musical ditties (‘Portobello Road’ in particular) and lovely performances from Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson, there’s relatively little that makes the film the endearing family adventure that it should be.
The animated sequence, while the bright spark of the film, still pales in comparison to that of Mary Poppins, and offers little to the movie’s story. Is it just a fun aside for no reason? Absolutely, but so it was in Mary Poppins, but that had an all-time classic song to make it really stand out.
Bedknobs And Broomsticks also feels surprisingly thin on the ground in terms of its fantasy and imagination. The film follows an apprentice witch and the three children she’s looking after…and that’s about it. Apart from doing the same trick where she transforms somebody into a rabbit a few times, there’s not much about her being a witch that really adds to the movie.
The film’s wartime setting also doesn’t do much to inspire viewers, with the arrival of Nazi soldiers in the latter stages of the film a rather jarring inclusion to what had been a fantasy adventure fully removed from reality, with very little real reference to the war or the Nazi threat.
In short, Bedknobs And Broomsticks feels very much like what I expect it actually is. A rehash of Mary Poppins with little in the way of genuine wonderment, awe and imagination to make it really sing. It’s a perfectly pleasant movie, but it has none of the magic of Disney’s all-time classics, so that’s why I’m giving it a 6.6 overall.