G for demonology. Look, I understand that the is a faction out there now that have relegated anything having to do with the supernatural and mysticism to the land of offensiveness. I'm not going to deny that demonic forces probably shouldn't be ignored, but the intention of this movie is to have fun with some animation. It just so happens that the movie has a framing narrative that in some circles comes across as a little uncomfortable. Also, like, it's Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Still G.
DIRECTORS: Robert Stevenson and Ward Kimball
Guys, I yell at my kids when they aren't paying attention to the movie. I glare at my wife when she's on her phone for the majority of a movie. This movie marks the beginning of the isolation film collection. Every night, we've been having family movie night and have been taking turns picking the movie. My wife got first pick, so we did Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I had never seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It looked darned charming and I was really stoked to see it. I don't think I've mentally checked out of a movie harder than Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
I don't even think I had a phone in front of me. Being about 50 mintues too long, I kept thinking that the movie was over. I mean, I was really grooving on the movie for a long long time. I thought, "How is everyone not talking about this movie? Shouldn't this be up there with Mary Poppins?" I knew that this movie existed, but it always kind of fell outside my watchlist. I make the Mary Poppins comparison because it shares a LOT of DNA with Mary Poppins. Besides the mixed animation / live action stuff, it's basically the same conceit. Woman with magic powers that people doubt becomes a governess of children. Has the dad from Mary Poppins? Yeah, there's stuff going on here with both. And like I said, I was really getting into the first part of the movie. The kids in Bedknobs and Broomsticks are way more hilarious than the Banks family. Those banks kids are just there to look at Mary and get gobsmacked. But these kids? They're super cockney! I mean, the most cockney kids that I've ever seen. I want them all to start reading Don Cheadle's lines from Ocean's Eleven. That's what Mary Poppins really needs, in my book, is just a bunch of people being super cynical and cockney around her. I know we have Burt, but Burt is American cockney and also super in love with Mary in a platonic way. I don't know if there's anything better than hilarious street urchins completely messing with what should be a completely straightforward concept: governess has magic powers / kids gobsmacked. The regularity of the magic in Bedknobs and Broomsticks probably makes it the most redeeming.
But everything after the 60 minute mark can kiss off as far as I am concerned. The movie relies way too much on its charms to carry it throughout the movie. Charm really only goes so far in terms in keeping a movie going for the long haul. I think that's what a lot of people had problems with when it came to Mary Poppins Returns. I loved Mary Poppins Returns. But I also like the character of Mary Poppins. Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Price is great, but there isn't that noticable shift in the kids. There's something remarkably confident about Poppins. Price seems more all-over-the-place and the kids are just along for the ride. It also never really seemed like the orphans (I know, they're orphans!) aren't that sad. Oh man, I just opened a door I wasn't planning on opening. I just realized that the destitute kids from London are less sympathetic than the financially comfortable Banks family. Why is that? The orphans from Bedknobs are so self-motivated that it almost seems like they don't need anyone. Perhaps this is more of a commentary on the direction of the movie. The movie tells us that these kids need a home, but it never shows us that they need a home. Instead, the Banks kids seem to have anything, but they are emotionally distant from their father. Their father is missing, so we see their sadness. There's something powerful, especially in a visual medium, to actually understand the emotional pain that the characters are going through.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks really fails to focus on the character development of anyone, but most importantly the children and Mrs. Price. As much as I like David Tomlinson's character, he's just a piece that doesn't really fit into the story all that much. He's almost there for the progression of a plot that doesn't really matter. We see the characters turn on a lightswitch when it comes to major dynamic choices. Mrs. Price SAYS she doesn't like kids, but really has no failure adapting them into her life. After multiple trips in the TARDIS / Bed, she just happens to like them. They didn't screw up her goal of being a great witch, so everything is really honkey-dorey. It seems like the family bonding is really incidental. While I love the orphans almost blase attitude about magic happening in front of them, that incredulity goes a long way to establishing relationships between all of the characters. There's no winning over. If characters just accept that there's magic, despite not living in a world of magical realism, where is the dynamic aspect. Instead of a major emotional shift, we just have a choice to accept. That is not what really moves me. Trust me, I get moved all the time by kids in peril. But this case, every character at the beginning of the movie is the same character at the end of the movie. Mary Poppins doesn't change, but everyone else in that house does. The lesson of Mary Poppins, at least the film, that being stuck in one's ways is ultimately toxic. There really isn't a lesson behind Bedknobs and Broomsticks, outside of criminally specific moments that are there just to push the plot forward.
What ultimately is left behind is an exercise in craft. I keep dropping Mary Poppins's name around because there creators of this film had to be dropping that name as much as I am. This is 1971. Mary Poppins was 1964. I'm sure everyone was just sitting on their hands, relishing the good ol' days when P.L. Travers was just yelling at everyone. They knew they had the technology to do it. It was a fun time doing it. Why not do it again? And so much of the character animation and designs are reused. Everything just feels a little bit more cheap with Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The lion from Robin Hood? He's the king of the island here, but why it just Prince John from Robin Hood? It's not even Bedknobs and Broomsticks' fault! Robin Hood wouldn't come out until 1973. (Robin Hood, despite being one of my secret favorite Disney films, infamously cut corners in the production of that film.) So much blah is going on here and it's weird to see Disney skimp. I wonder if it's just a problem with '70s Disney. That's a really wide net to cast and I don't want to completely burn bridges here, but the '70s, for as much joy as it gave me, kind of had a lot of lower quality Disney experiences. Bedknobs and Broomsticks is really just trying to capitalize on a previous success and it really doesn't hold water that well.
Again, if the movie was 73 minutes, I would be applauding the living daylights out of this movie. It's the reason that I like Dumbo. You can achieve great success with a simple movie done right. It's just that everything seems overblown and that's what it is, I guess. You know what Bedknobs and Broomsticks is? It's my kids looking at all of the junk food in our pantry and attempting to make a cake out of it. It's too much with almost no real heart to it. I mean, I never thought that I would poo poo a Disney movie that ends with Angela Lansbury fighting Nazis using magic, but I am.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.