A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a classic Disney movie that was re-released for its 25th anniversary. It's more than two hours long and better suited for longer attention spans or partial viewings. The framework of the movie -- World War II, Nazi invasions, and bombings in London -- is about as un-child-friendly as it gets, but the film manages to take a lighthearted approach. Main characters never seem frightened by the war or soldiers, though the children talk briefly about losing their parents to the war. The climax of the film involves a drawn-out battle between the main character and a small group of invading Nazis in which the enemy soldiers wield swords and machine guns against her. Despite this apparent violence, no blood is shed, no one is hurt, and the main character retains a smile throughout the entire battle.
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What's the story?
Based on the book by Mary Norton (also the author of The Borrowers), BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS is the story of three children evacuated from London during World War II who find themselves looked after by an apprentice witch, Miss Price (Angela Lansbury). The witch has plans to save England from the Nazis by casting a special spell, which she awaits from the post office. When she receives word that the special spell will not arrive because her witchcraft correspondence college has been closed, she enchants a bedknob and, along with the children, travel by brass bed to London and eventually to the animated world of Naboombu, to find the spell. The children -- Charlie (Ian Weighill), Carrie (Cindy O'Callaghan), and Paul (Roy Snart) -- help Miss Price and her professor, Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson) wrest the spell from the rough-and-tumble animated creatures of Naboombu and then return to the real world to fight off an enemy invasion. Afterward, Miss Price retires from witchcraft and Professor Browne joins the army, but it is clear they have become a family.
Is it any good?
Like many classic Disney movies, including Mary Poppins, the more dynamic parts of this movie are interspersed with less compelling scenes, at least for young children. Several scenes focus entirely on adults, including a melancholy song by Miss Price about the benefits of being single, which might lose the attention of the youngest viewers. The animated portion on the island of Naboombu is lots of fun, though. Kids and adults will enjoy the exaggerated characters and their comic shenanigans as they compete in a vigorous soccer match.
But the dance routine in the middle of the movie and the dramatic final battle scene go on too long for even more developed attention spans. Also, the war-time theme and occasional sexist remarks make this film feel dated. Overall, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a mild, family-oriented comedy about the ability of individuals to make a big difference.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between fantasy and reality, since it may not be clear to many kids. What elements of fantasy are there in Bedknobs and Broomsticks?
Talk about magic. What kind of magic do you wish you could perform and why?
Families can talk about what makes a movie scary besides the story. How does the music or the lighting make you feel?
Families can talk about language and accents. Did you find it difficult to understand the British accents? What other kinds of accents are you familiar with?
- In theaters: December 13, 1971
- On DVD or streaming: March 20, 2001
- Cast: Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowall
- Director: Robert Stevenson
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 140 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: March 28, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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