Childhood films often don't stand the test of time. So often, something you saw as, say, a 6-year-old, is never as good as you remember it being when, as an adult, you introduce it to your own 6-year-old child. Luckily, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of those rare films that defies that trend.
It's the charming (and somewhat twee) tale of madcap inventor and single father Caractacus Potts (Van Dyke), his two cute kids (Ripley and Hall), and a flying car. The car, a former grand prix champion, is destined for the scrapyard until the Potts children convince their father to buy it. He does, and after restoring it to its former glory (plus a few modifications), the family embarks on a series of adventures involving pirates, a nasty Bavarian king, an evil childcatcher and a toymaker that looks remarkably like Fred Scuttle. Joining them are the marvellously named Truly Scrumptious (Howes), daughter of confectionery magnate Lord Scrumptious (Justice, who was so wonderful in the "Doctor" films of the 50s and 60s).
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is bright, breezy and looks almost brand new in this remastered Blu-ray version. The film plays like a blend of The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – which is fitting, because the script was penned by Wonka author Roald Dahl, based on a story by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. A fine pedigree there, for sure. Van Dyke sparkles in the lead role, although I have to admit to a certain puzzlement in why an American got the lead in a British film. But at least here he's actually playing the character AS an American, unlike his awful cockney accent in Mary Poppins! The rest of the cast lends wonderful support, chewing up the scenery and belting out the tunes with gusto – although, unlike many other musicals, the only memorable track is the title one. Still, regardless of that minor quibble, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of the finest family films you're ever likely to see.
EXTRAS ★★★★ As well as a Blu-ray copy of the film, there's also a DVD in this 2-disc pack. The rest of the extras include the new features Sing-Along, Music Machine, Chitty Chitty’s Bang Bang Driving Game, Toot Sweet Musical Maestro, Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Dick Van Dyke, A Fantasmagorical Motorcar, and Sherman Brothers’ Demos. Then there are the vintage featurettes from previous releases: The Ditching Tinkerer, Dick Van Dyke Press Interview, The Potts' Children’s Featurette, Photo Gallery, Vintage Advertising Gallery, trailers and TV spots.