Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Top Ten Disney Films - #9

Continuing along in listing my top 10 Disney films, before getting into the features, we’ll start today with #9 –

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Laugh all you want and tell me that this is a poor man’s Mary Poppins. It is, and I have no problem with that. You can probably guess that Mary Poppins will end up higher on this list, but I cherish Bedknobs and Broomsticks very highly as well.

True story – one weekend, when I was a kid, my parents went away to a football game, and I was stuck at home with my cousins and our babysitter for the day. We watched this movie that day on the Disney Channel, and then spent the rest of the day in my room, tapping the bedknob and hoping that somehow we would be able to travel the world. That is what Disney is all about – seeing magic and making it personal for the viewer.

If you haven’t seen this film, you’re missing out. Angela Lansbury is the star, as Eglantine Price, and she is perfectly good, but the real star of the show is David Tomlinson, who came off his performance as the father in Mary Poppins to serve here as Professor Emelius Brown. To me, this is a showman at his peak, as Tomlinson acts serious, funny and charming all at once, performing songs, dances and monologues with equal grace.

While the songs in this film are not nearly as recognizable as Mary Poppins, the Sherman Brothers still turn in some gems here, primarily the climactic “Substitutiary Locomotion” sequence. But there is also the tour de force “Portobello Road,” which weaves elements of various cultures together visually and musically, and Tomlinson’s two big numbers, “With a Flair” and “Eglantine,” are also quite good.

The children in this film are much like any Disney movie, there as window dressing and cuteness for the adult comic actors to play against. However, I must say I do quite enjoy the oldest child, Charlie, and his mischievous streak. Plus, as a good Irish man myself, I always enjoy a kid asking for bangers and mash. That’s sausage and mashed potatoes for those of you uninitiated. Try it at Raglan Road at Downtown Disney next time you’re in Walt Disney World. You’ll be glad you did.

All in all, Bedknobs and Broomsticks does not feature any Oscar worthy acting performances or one of a kind special effects, but it is to me a summation of what Disney is and can be. It’s a family musical featuring an animated sequence, comedy and a heart warming tale of triumph over adversity. The flaws are there, to be sure, as it’s probably a little too long and the story is in no way tightly focused, but the charm of those extended sequences makes up for it. If you haven’t watched this one in a while, take it out and have another look. You’ll be glad you did.
All images copyright Disney.

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