When my son had a particularly hard time with his homework last weekend, I offered him a chance to celebrate when he was finished. Whatever we could do at home to make a big deal out of finishing this task, I’d do it. He chose watching a movie. I knew I loved the kid. It was the movie he chose that surprised me – Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Growing up, this was one of my favorite Disney films. The escapism of this film is undeniable, especially for kids. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s basically the story of three orphans during World War II who are sent off the country to avoid the bombing in London. What they encounter there is a witch in training, played by Angela Lansbury, who gives them a spell to keep them quiet about her witchy ways. The spell is an enchanted bedknob, which gives their bed the ability to travel wherever they want. You can see how this appeals to a kid.
Why did my son pick this movie? There’s no telling with him, but I think that the idea of escaping wherever you want was a big reason why. In the film, although Angela Lansbury is clearly the star, the kids still take a center role. They are not just window dressing, but instead the kids are a key part of the plot. While they don’t play front and center in every scene, if they are not integral to the plot, they’re seen having fun with the entire journey.
It doesn’t hurt that the film is packed with fun and memorable songs, just like Mary Poppins. While this is clearly an attempt to mirror the success of that film, Bedknobs and Broomsticks has just as many good Sherman Brothers songs. Angela Lansbury’s “The Age of Not Believing” is every bit as heartbreaking and emotional for me as “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins. I have often found myself singing “Portobello Road” or “Don’t Let Me Down” as I walk through the house.
One thing I know that my son really liked was the appearance of David Tomlinson as Professor Emelius Brown. I believe his exact words were “Hey, that’s the guy from Mary Poppins!” Sure, the appearance of the former Mr. Banks only adds to the feeling that you’re watching a lite version of Mary Poppins, but that should not deter you from enjoying Tomlinson’s character. Despite being a bit of a cad, he manages to pull off a loveable and fun character that makes you want to keep watching.
All of it wraps around a very complex plot that my son still managed to follow. In fact by the time we got to the end of the film, he was dying laughing at the climactic sequences. Although I loved this film when I was his age, I never would have expected a child from today’s world of video games, iPods, quick cut action films and cartoons to enjoy an old movie. But he did. And so will you.