Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
By Common Sense Media,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
A fantastical car story custom-made for kids.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Fascinating footage of early auto races showing cars in the early 1900s. An array of inventions created by Mr. Potts includes early versions of a vacuum cleaner, hydroplane, and many more.
There's beauty and worth to be found in everyone. The most valuable part of life is having people to love and care for and being loved and cared for in return. Even failure can be a positive experience if you learn from your mistakes. Themes include curiosity and perseverance.
Positive Role Models
Mr. Potts is a hero to his children. He's more creative than successful, more loving than responsible, and he fills their simple needs in unorthodox ways. Jemima and Jeremy are happy, unselfish, bright, and loyal.
The villains who live in a land called "Vulgaria" are bumbling Germanic stereotypes, most of them elderly, snobbish White men with pointy noses and creepy costumes. The cast is almost entirely White, and fat characters are villains. Female character Truly Scrumptious is smart and practical and has an independent, no-nonsense approach to life.
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Violence & Scariness
All of the action is exaggerated and cartoonish; no one is injured or killed. A couple of minor car crashes. One car catches on fire. An experiment with a rocket ends when it sparks and catches fire, briefly putting its inventor at risk. In a fantasy story-within-a-story, the Potts and friends end up in danger in a fictional kingdom. Many pratfalls, pirate attacks, a baroness is shot into the sky (and retrieved by cannon shots letting the air out of her billowing skirt). A character in his outhouse-like hideaway is carried away by a zeppelin. Dynamite explosions. There's a creepy Child Catcher who uses candy to lure children into cages, as well as two villains who try lots of cartoon measures to capture the Potts family (one has a hook), and a long comic battle between soldiers and the heroes, who fight alongside an army of children.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A woman dances in old-fashioned lingerie. Two characters kiss.
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One use of "ass."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A party scene features characters smoking cigarettes and drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a classic family adventure film. During some scenes, the main characters and others are in jeopardy, and fantasy sequences include comic pratfalls. There's also exaggerated action: A character in his outhouse-like hideaway gets carried away by a zeppelin, a baroness is shot into the sky (and retrieved by cannon shots letting the air out of her billowing skirt). Villains include the clownish variety with twirling mustaches, one of whom wields a hook, and a very creepy Child Catcher who uses candy to lure children into cages. Younger children may find the images scary; older kids might understand the intent and could find it funny. A woman dances in her old-fashioned lingerie, and two characters kiss. There's an entire kingdom made up of villainous Germanic stereotypes (elderly snobbish White men) who aren't as menacing as they are bumbling. The film has positive messages about how there's beauty and worth to be found in everyone, and that even failure can be a positive experience if you learn from your mistakes. Themes and character strengths on display include curiosity and perseverance.
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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
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What's the Story?
Based loosely on a novel by Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame), the fantasy musical CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG gets rolling when Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke), an eccentric inventor with barely enough money to keep a roof over his two kids' heads, buys a beat-up motorcar and transforms it into a dream machine that can fly, float, and, it seems, even think for itself. A day at the seashore with the car -- which is called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang -- spawns an elaborate adventure in the land of Vulgaria, as the Potts clan and candy heiress Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes) try to rescue Grandpa Potts (Lionel Jeffries) from his kidnappers, Baron (Gert Fröbe) and Baroness Bomburst (Anna Quayle). On the adventure, an exceedingly creepy child catcher entices the young Jeremy (Adrian Hall) and Jemima Potts (Heather Ripley) with lollipops, Caractacus and Truly pose as life-size dolls at the baron's birthday party, and the country's imprisoned children stage a revolt.
Is It Any Good?
This film is the stuff of magic. Roald Dahl, author of many children's stories including James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was co-writer of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang screenplay, which blends fantasy and adventure in a whimsical movie musical that has been captivating children for decades. The wonderful music comes as no surprise; after all, it's by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, who also wrote the music for Mary Poppins. Though the songs in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang aren't quite as memorable, the story may leave even more of an impression on kids and excite them to a greater degree thanks to the thrilling action and abundant humor. Young viewers may drift to sleep after the climax, as the love story between Caractacus and Truly concludes, but they'll have a feast of visions to dream of for years to come.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about which parts of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang "really happened" and which were imagined by the characters. How can you use your imagination to go on adventures at home?
What would you do with a car like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? What kinds of things would you like to invent?
Why were the people of Vulgaria depicted as fools? Do you think any real-life political events affected their portrayal?
How do the characters in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang demonstrate curiosity and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?
- In theaters: December 18, 1968
- On DVD or streaming: November 25, 2003
- Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Lionel Jeffries, Sally Ann Howes
- Director: Ken Hughes
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Curiosity, Perseverance
- Run time: 144 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: May 24, 2023
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