[WATCHED: March 11, 2013] Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
After enjoying the audio book of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so much we thought it would be fun to watch the movie–it’s one of the first times we’ve watched a movie after reading the book with the kids so we thought it would be fun to compare them.
This proved to be an awesome opportunity to show that books and movies can be a wee bit different. Holy moley, about the only thing that the movie has in common with the book is (some of) the characters have the same name and that there’s a magical car. Oh, and there’s candy involved. Other than that, there’s really no resemblance whatsoever.
The screenplay to the movie was written by Roald Dahl, which explains some of the weirdness (child catcher, anyone?), And yes the movie producer’s real name is Albert Broccoli. But seriously, someone read the book and said, hey, that car is cool, I’m going to take it and make something totally different with it. Oh, and I know, it should be a musical! Oh, and it should be two and a half hours long! Oh and even though it’s set in England, it will star Dick van Dyke! Oh, and instead of him having that crazy accent like in Mary Poppins, he’ll be American, even though his children and father will be British.
I was going to talk a bit about the movie, but that only seems doable by comparing it to the book. In this handy table format.
|POTTS FAMILY||Caractacus, Mimsy, Jeremy, Jeremiah (twins although the girl has black hair and the boy has blond)||Caractacus, Jeremy, Jeremiah (both blond). The mother is not there (never explained) which introduces the love interest of Truly Scrumptious|
|CANDY||Caractacus accidentally makes a candy that whistles. He sells it to Scrumptious candy for a today sum that lets them buy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang||Caractacus accidentally makes a candy that whistles. Truly scrumptious, the daughter of the Scrumptious candy empire initially hates the Potts family, but eventually encourages him to try to talk to her father about selling him the candy. But after a long musical routine, dogs enter the factory and ruin his chances of selling the candy. This leads to Caractacus needing to find an alternate source of revenue|
|THE CAR||Is green. It also has a mind of its own, allowing them to fly over cars and float on the river.||Is silver (and multicolored). We see Caractacus bringing a boat into the garage when he is fixing the car which somehow makes the actual boat sequence seem plausible. Except, the whole boat and flying sequences proves t o be a fantasy sequence.|
|VILLAIN||Joe the Monster, a notorious gangster, whose munitions the family blows up||A German(ish) captain bent on stealing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He captures the grandpa and eventually a child catcher is introduced–all of this taking place in the fantasy country of Vulgaria.|
|SONGS||none||about a dozen|
|GRANDPA||none||A crazy (literally) adventurer who goes into what I think is an outhouse because he talks about going on adventures to Africa or India or thereabouts. Is also captured by the bad guys|
|EXPLOSIONS||Oh yes!||Surprisingly, none|
|HORDES OF ABANDONED CHILDREN||no||yes|
|POTTS CHILDREN CAPTURED||yes||yes|
|CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS||sort of||yes, Caractacus feels he cannot marry Truly because her family is so rich. But when he suddenly becomes rich, it’s okay.|
It was very hard for me to get past the changes to the book, which made me dislike the movie. I also had a hard time comprehending why the movie came out the way it did. Was there really a call for 2 and half hour musical for kids? If you haven’t seen the movie in a long time, you may recall the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang song which kind of flows naturally as the family is driving (it’s a great song). But then there are the songs that are straight out of adult musicals (and remind me of The Sound of Music for some reason). Like the romance song in which Truly Scrumptious is singing about her desire for a man (which, by the way, occurs during the fantasy sequence–so how does that reconcile with the fact that in reality, they were in the car for the length of a story and not several adventures apart).
There’s also the really strange “Me Ol’ Bamboo” dance routine which occurs at the fairgrounds (a fairground that apparently pops up in the middle of the night and is suddenly inundated with people. A fairground which is not in the book and is only added as a way to get Caractacus some money which he did not get in the candy store because of the dogs). The song is very cool and the dance routine is really amazing (Dick van Dyke was a master of physical comedy and dance–I had no idea), but it’s about five minutes with literally nothing to do with the story (and was written by a guy because he…used a bamboo cane–??).
It bothers me that the flying car sequence (with the crazy Vulgarians–a joke I found quite funny) was all a fantasy sequence. The book’s fantastical sequences are so reasonable–the car recognizes trouble and responds accordingly–presumably because the family loves the car so. And we sort of get that in the movie, but why not have the fantasy be a real event? It is a musical after all. It’s no less believable than that there are literally hundreds of dogs running loose in London who will come flying into a candy factory.
Also, did we need to have the huge romantic subplot (and apparent widowhood for the father–what was it about the late 60s and early 70s and the popularity of widowhood?). Couldn’t they have just been a happy family? I mean, sure they would have missed out on the Truly Scrumptious song, but they could have added her as a nice lady that helps them out with her father.
I can’t help but feel that the movie came in at a weird length so they decided rather than cut the music, what the hell, throw in three more songs and make the movie epic.
I hate to be so down on the movie, because there was a lot to enjoy. As I said, Dick Van Dyke’s performance was amazing in the bamboo dance and as a mechanical toy. Benny Hill is in it! (As the toymaker). The car looks great as does the castle in Vulgaria. And I really like Potts’ inventions. I also really enjoyed Caracatacus’ interactions with his kids in the beginning. Indeed, the whole beginning of the movie was very enjoyable, despite deviations from the book–the breakfast machine was very fun indeed.
But really, the plot is weird. And can you really tell me that that original plot of the book–blowing up dynamite, caves with skeletons and Joe the Monster were somehow not cool enough for the movie? Even if you needed to keep the romantic plot, why would the novel’s excitement be less exciting than the Vulgaria story? It’s a mystery.
The book is so different, I’d love to see them do a remake of the movie using the book as a basis–it would be so different from the original movie that no one would claim foul!