Still Bobbing Along
Here's a question for you, if "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" had been released in 1964 and "Mary Poppins" in 1971 which one do you think would be most fondly cherished? I ask the question because as it stands "Mary Poppins" is more cherished that "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" yet to be honest they are almost the same movie. And what I mean by that is that both movies have a woman who does magic, accompanied by a man they take young children on a magical trip which takes them into an animated world. Both movies are directed by Robert Stevenson, both feature David Tomlinson and both have very similar musical scores by the Sherman brothers. Yes there are different situations but at their heart we have movies which work to the same formula and both are equally as enjoyable.
The year is 1940 and young evacuees Charlie (Ian Weighill), Carrie (Cindy O'Callaghan), and Paul Rawlins (Roy Snart) find themselves sent to live with Miss Evangeline Price (Angela Lansbury - Blue Hawaii) in her large house near Pepperinge Eye. What they don't know is that Miss Price is an apprentice witch who has been taking a correspondence course in magic. When the course run by Professor Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson) is terminated Miss Price whisks them all down to London on a magic bed to find Professor Browne to get the final lesson and so starts an adventure of a life time as they end up in the world of Naboombu in search of some missing magic words.
So as already pointed out "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" and "Mary Poppins" have a lot in common and as such it would be fair to say that "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" has an equally slim storyline. After the set up which sees apprentice witch Miss Price take in the 3 young evacuees it boils down to a series of adventures with the first whisking them off to London and in search of Professor Browne and also the last magic spell from a book. The reason for this is so that we can have the big musical number "Portobello Road" with all the singing and dancing. Plus there is the Bookman who wants the other half of the book that Professor Browne has and whilst it's only a small part we do get the fun of Bruce Forsyth playing a comically shady henchman.
Anyway that is but the first adventure and then as in "Mary Poppins" we get taken into an animated world where cartoon characters interact with the actors and not only do we get the musical number "The Beautiful Briny" we also get the comical football match and I do say football because it is so annoying that they call it soccer. Those similarities with "Mary Poppins" continue as we get the equivalent of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" with "Substitutiary Locomotion" and so on and forth as "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" continues to play out in a very similar manner. Things do differ when it comes to the ending and we have an amusing scene where Miss Price gets to save the day using her magic but the similarities are so clear throughout.
As such "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" also has some of the same issues such as some of the musical scenes going on far too long such as the dancing in "Portobello Road". And the same with the animated scenes with the football match whilst amusing dragging on much longer than needed. But then there are also the same positives and the creativity and humour of the cartoons interacting with the actors is once again brilliant.
One of the big differences between the two movies is that whilst there was something a little sexy about Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, Angela Lansbury's Miss Price is more homely. But that doesn't detract from a wonderful performance from Lansbury whose comic timing is wonderful. And Lansbury not only works well with the young children but also David Tomlinson whose sham Professor is a wonderful character which Tomlinson exploits to the fullest.
What this all boils down to is that "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" is to be honest almost as good as "Mary Poppins" even if it does at times feel too similar. But most importantly as a movie aimed for young audiences it completely works, it's fun, imaginative, creative and memorable with nothing in the slightest bit offensive to make it wrong for younger eyes and whilst it maybe 40 years old it is still simply good fun.