Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

 
A fantastical car story custom made for kids.
  • Review Date: May 11, 2005
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1968
  • Running Time: 144 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Interesting footage of early auto races "British Grand Prix" showing cars in the very early 1900s. An array of inventions created by Mr. Potts which predate their actual development, early versions of a vacuum cleaner, hydroplane, and many more.

Positive messages

There’s beauty and worth to be found in even the most unconventional people. 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 –- “from the ashes of disaster come the roses of success.” And finally, dreams can come true, but you have to be practical, too.

Positive role models

Mr. Potts is a hero to his children. He’s more creative than successful, more loving than responsible, and fills their simple needs in unorthodox ways. In spite of the unusual life they lead (home-schooled, an eccentric father, a wacky grandfather, a lack of material possessions) Jemima and Jeremy are happy, unselfish, bright, and loyal. The villains who live in a land called “Vulgaria” are essentially bumbling Germanic stereotypes.

Violence & scariness

All of the action is exaggerated and clownish; no one is injured or killed. A couple of minor car crashes occur in a sequence showing very early 1900s auto racing. 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. There are numerous pratfalls, pirate attacks, canon fire, and dynamite, an evil “child catcher,” two farcical villains who try lots of cartoon measures to capture the Potts family, and a lengthy comic battle between soldiers and our heroes, who fight alongside an army of children.

Sexy stuff

One romantic kiss as a man asks his sweetheart to marry him.

Language

One use of “ass.”

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while there are scenes in this film in which the Potts family members and others are in jeopardy, they are fantasy sequences filled with comic pratfalls, exaggerated action (Grandpa, in his outhouse-like hideaway carried away by a zeppelin; a baroness shot into the sky and retrieved by canon shots letting the air out of her billowing skirt), and arch clown-like villains with twirling mustaches, and one even wielding a hook. Only the very youngest or most apprehensive children may find the images scary; other kids will understand the intent and likely find it funny. There is an entire kingdom made up of buffoonish Germanic stereotypes who are more bumbling than menacing.

What's the story?

Based loosely on the 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 for them 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 called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang spawns an elaborate adventure in Vulgaria as the Potts clan and candy heiress Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes) try to rescue Grandpa Potts from his kidnappers, Baron and Baroness Bomburst. On the adventure, an exceedingly creepy child catcher entices the young Jeremy and Jemima Potts 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?

QUALITY
 

After writing the music for the extraordinary Mary Poppins, brothers Richard and Robert Sherman wrote the music for this film (their first non-Disney musical). Roald Dahl, author of many children's stories including James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was co-writer of Chitty, which blends fantasy and adventure in a whimsical movie musical that has been captivating children for decades.

Although the songs aren't quite as memorable as in Mary Poppins, the story may leave even more of an impression on kids than the Disney hallmark and excite them to a greater degree. It's not a perfectly cut film, but it's the stuff of the children's wildest fantasies. 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. For DVD extras that really add value, get the Special Edition, which was made with Van Dyke's involvement and includes interviews, games, and many other fun features.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about which part of the story "really happened" and which was make believe.

  • What would you do with a car like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? What kinds of things would you like to invent?

  • For older kids: Why were the people of Vulgaria depicted as fools? How do real-life political events affect movies? Can you imagine looking back at today's movies and recognizing how politics influenced them?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 18, 1968
DVD release date: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
Run time:144 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 4 and 6 year old Written byjcmccain November 7, 2009
age 6+
 

6 yo still scared

My 4 and 6 year olds were scared by the kid catcher and broke down in tears. We couldn't finish the movie! My kids are sensitive and don't watch much TV, but I thought they'd have been ok with this.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 3 and 4 year old Written bymom of 2 boys August 25, 2009
age 3+
 

The "Child Catcher" is WAY to scary for 3-5 year olds

I vaguely remembered this from my childhood and rented it to watch with my 3 and 5 year olds. It was HORRIBLE. The first half of the movie was fine, but the second half was WAY to scary for them. Even though I fast forwarded through most of the second half, and then finally just skipped to the last chapter to see the ending, my 5 year old kept asking "why did the kid catcher guy have lollipops? why did he put the kids in the cage? What was he going to do to the kids?" I took it as an opportunity to talk about strangers, but he was crying and scared to go to sleep after the movie. There was also a lot of slapstick violence, shooting canons at people, and as I was fast forwarding, I caught some women dancing in "sexy" clothing. Absolutely horrible film. There was also some mildly boring parts such as the "what a lovely lonely man" song. Now I know why I only vaguely remember this one- my mom probably saw it once and that was it for us watching it. We are going to stick to Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music - those are the classics I really remember. And the music is much better in those movies too.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Parent of a 9 year old Written byehsing@rogers.com October 9, 2010
age 5+
 

What's not to love?

We love it. What's not to love? It's a fun, whimsical adventure.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass