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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while there are scenes in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in which the Potts family members and others are in jeopardy, there 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.
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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?
It's not a perfectly cut film, but it's the stuff of children's wildest fantasies. 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 Chitty Bang Bang, 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. 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which part of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang "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?
- 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: September 21, 2019
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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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