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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ken Hughes
Cast:
Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Fröbe, Anna Quayle, Benny Hill, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, Heather Ripley, Adrian Hall
Writing Credits:
Ian Fleming (novel), Roald Dahl, Ken Hughes

Tagline:
Enter a world of great adventure.

Synopsis:
Let your imagination take flight with one of the most wonderful family films of all time! Dick Van Dyke will take you on an incredible ride in an extraordinary car called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Experience the timeless Oscar nominated classic in an all new definitive special edition that boasts an array of extras as magical as the film itself.

Box Office:
Budget
$10 million.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.20:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Portuguese
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 145 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 11/25/2003

Bonus:
Disc One
• Sing-Along
• Trailer for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – The Musical
Disc Two
• “Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang With Dick Van Dyck” Documentary
• “A Fantasmagorical Motorcar” Featurette
• “The Ditchling Tinkerer” Featurette
• Original Dick Van Dyck Interview
• “The Potts Children” Featurette
• Read-Along Storybook
• Sherman Brothers Song Demos
• Vintage Advertising Gallery
• Two Interactive Games
• DVD-ROM Coloring Pages
• MGM Promos
• 32-Page Booklet


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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Special Edition (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 26, 2003)

Best known as the creator of the adult-oriented Mr. Kiss-Kiss, Bang-Bang, Ian Fleming tossed some sop to the kiddies with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Adapted into a popular film in 1968 by another successful author, Roald Dahl – along with director Ken Hughes - Chitty starts with a montage that shows a particular car as it wins one major early 20th century race after another. Eventually, it crashes and ends up junked. It almost winds up melted down, but little kids Jemima (Heather Ripley) and Jeremy (Adrian Hall) attempt to save it when they convince their wacky inventor father Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) to buy it.

Before this occurs, the kids meet a prissy young woman named Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes); she nearly runs down the children when they play in the road and then drives them home. She seems appalled that they aren’t in school and seeks to reprimand Caractacus. The pair butt heads, and Caractacus feels irate over her criticisms, though he starts to see her points.

Caractacus lacks the funds for the vehicle, but his failed inventions finally seem to pay off via some candies with holes in them. These whistle, which makes them endearing. Caractacus runs into obstacles when he attempts to sell them to a sweets manufacturer (James Robertson Justice), but some wheel greasing occurs when it turns out that Truly is this dude’s daughter. Initially it looks like Mr. Scrumptious will pursue the “Toot Sweets”, but a mishap undermines these efforts and leaves the Potts family back at square one.

However, when a carnival comes to the area, Caractacus tries to get back in the black with his automatic haircut machine. This fails, and when the victim of a miserable buzz pursues him, Caractacus ends up in a musical revue. This nets him some bucks, so he – finally – buys the car.

After a few days in the shop, Caractacus emerges with a radically revamped roadster. He takes the kids for a ride toward a picnic, and based on the car’s distinctive motor noise, they name it “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. Along the way, they accidentally run Truly off the road. After a quick argument, she agrees to accompany them on their outing, and the foursome enjoy a happy day.

When a threat arises and the car ends up stuck in the sea, the group soon discovers its magic as it sprouts a raft and allows them to drive it across the water. Nasty Baron Bomburst (Gert Frobe) sees all this and decides he must acquire the car, so he sends his henchmen to pursue it. The remaining half of the film focuses on the two main plots: the burgeoning relationship between Caractacus and Truly as well as the attempts for Bomburst to land Chitty. The latter leads them on a chase out of the country and into some wild adventures.

Chitty seems to enjoy a nice reputation as a charming childrens’ fantasy, and indeed it does offer some likable elements. However, it seems less than successful as a whole, mainly due to its turgid pacing. Man, does this flick move slowly! Actually, that’s not totally true, as the movie picks up moderately during its second half. Most of the action occurs during that portion, so at least it improves as it progresses. The movie’s second hour seems considerably more entertaining and creative than its first.

Unfortunately, we must suffer through some genuinely dull elements. It takes the tale a full 48 minutes for Caractacus to actually buy the car, which is at least twice as long as it should have taken. Heck, we know he’s going to purchase it, and I see no reason for the filmmakers to prolong the wait for so long. Sure, some of this sets up the characters, but we definitely didn’t need 48 minutes to get the backstory on the Potts family and to launch the relationship between Caractacus and Truly.

That element offers another weakness. From their “meet cute” on, it seems ridiculously obvious that the pair will fall in love and she’ll become the new mother for Jemima and Jeremy. If the flick ever explained what happened to Mrs. Potts, I missed it. (I also couldn’t figure out what the decidedly American Caractacus was doing with a very British father and kids.) Van Dyke and Howe interact fairly well, though they don’t show tremendous chemistry. Nonetheless, the inevitability of their relationship means it lacks drama or much to interest us.

Much of the cast seems fine, and it indeed includes some talented performers. Unfortunately, the two main children create some sickly sweet moments. I usually find British child actors to seem more real and less cutesy than American ones, but that isn’t the case here. Ripley and Hall look like they came straight from some sugary ad campaign and make the flick a little cloying at times.

Personally, with Dahl behind the script, I hoped for something a bit edgier than Chitty and more along the lines of Willy Wonka. Some of that pops up, especially during the second half. Nonetheless, the film prefers to stay on the gentle side of the humor, so don’t expect a lot of bright wit here. The flick prefers cute and light over incisive and sharp.

One area in which Chitty excels relates to its production values. Veteran Bond production designer Ken Adam handles those chores here and he makes Chitty a wonder to watch. Most of the film’s inventiveness comes from those elements, and the movie adopts a nice storybook feel that helps involve us in the fantasy.

Interestingly, Chitty features other connections to James Bond. In addition to the authorship of Ian Fleming and the production design of Adam, Cubby Broccoli produced both, and we also see actors Gert “Goldfinger” Frobe and Desmond “Q” Llewelyn. I noticed other vets like production associate Peter Hunt as well, and I might have missed some others.

Ultimately, Chitty has its charms and provides some decent fantasy, but it just moves too darned slowly and features too little plot. For a film named after a car, we see awfully little of the titular vehicle, and the movie lacks focus. I may be in the minority, but I think Chitty offers a visually appealing but slow and only sporadically engaging flick.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Since the prior DVD of Chitty solely included the pan and scan rendition, fans undoubtedly will feel excited simply to get the flick in its original aspect ratio. They should also get a real kick from this fairly terrific transfer.

Sharpness appeared consistently positive. Almost no instances of softness popped up during the film. Instead, the movie came across as nicely detailed and well defined, even in the wider shots. I noticed no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, and only a little edge enhancement seemed apparent. As for print flaws, these remained surprisingly absent. An occasional speckle or bit of grit showed up, but these were very rare, as the vast majority of the movie looked clean and fresh. Some moderately weak special effects shots caused the image to look a bit flawed at times, but those were absolutely inevitable given the state of art from 1968.

Colors also provided a highlight of the movie. Given the various fantastic episodes, I expected some lively hues, and the transfer delivered. The image presented a nice variety of tones that looked quite vivid and dynamic. Blacks seemed deep and firm, without any problems connected to inkiness or a lack of depth. Shadows also were smooth and cleanly depicted, without excessive density or darkness. Ultimately, I found little about which I could complain in this clear and attractive picture.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang also presented a very positive Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. While not up to modern standards, the film offered a soundfield that seemed very broad and encompassing for its era. Unsurprisingly, the forward domain dominated, and that area showed a wide auditory image. The side speakers demonstrated nice stereo delineation for the music, and effects helped create a good feeling of placement and movement. Elements panned smoothly and accurately. The surrounds added a nice sense of atmosphere, and they also presented solid activity when appropriate. The movie started with a vivid sequence, as race cars zoomed all around the spectrum, and other scenes contributed some fine expansion as well.

Audio quality showed its age at times but remained fairly positive. Dialogue mostly sounded natural and distinctive, though a little edginess occasionally emerged. Effects also showed some minor harshness at times, but those elements mostly came across as reasonably full and accurate. I noticed only a little distortion on occasion. Music seemed a little heavy in the high-end realm and wasn’t tremendously deep, but the score and songs mostly appeared acceptably detailed and rich. Some hiss seemed apparent during parts of the movie, but those didn’t cause any particular distractions. Overall, the soundtrack of Chitty seemed more than satisfactory for an older flick.

This new two-disc edition of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang packages a nice set of supplements. DVD One only includes two components. It tosses in a sneak peek for a stage adaptation of the story. This 148-second clip plays music from the show as it depicts shots from the piece and behind the scenes images; all this adds up to nothing more than an advertisement.

We also get a sing-along element. This uses the subtitle stream to run the film’s lyrics along with the musical numbers. Of course, the regular English subtitles do this as well, but the “sing-along” highlights each word as it gets sung, which makes it more like a real karaoke feature.

As we move to DVD Two, we find the bulk of the extras. The most significant offers a documentary called Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang With Dick Van Dyke. In this 25-minute and 42-second piece, we get the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews with Van Dyke. He provides a general discussion of his take on the film and discusses topics like his dancing, the special effects, working with others, and various production elements. The tone remains cheerful and focused totally on the happy side of things, which makes “Remembering” a little banal as we just hear how much fun everything was. Still, Van Dyke tosses in enough good anecdotes and insightful mentions of trivia to make this worth a listen for fans of Chitty.

Another featurette shows up via A Fantasmagorical Motorcar. The nine-minute and 42-second piece uses the same combination of elements seen in the prior program; here we get notes from Pierre Picton, owner of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang picture car. He goes over his involvement in the film and how he ended up with the vehicle. Picton also discusses car components, the different versions of it, and he gives us a closer look at the vehicle. It presents a moderately interesting examination of the car, as it lets us see the various elements in reasonably close detail.

An audio extra pops up with the Sherman Brothers Song Demos. These cover 14 times created for the movie. All told they last about 30 minutes, as we hear the Shermans play the numbers with just piano and voice accompaniment. This feature offers an interesting look at early versions of the songs.

Three vintage components arrive next. A featurette called The Ditchling Tinkerer runs 10 minutes and initially focuses on inventor Rowland Emett, the man who created the wacky inventions seen in the movie. This shows him at his home, where he takes ordinary objects and puts them together into new devices. It then concentrates more specifically on the pieces seen in the film. Those bits present some remarks from Emett as he goes through the pieces and his work. “Tinkerer” avoids too much blatant promotion and gives us a moderately entertaining examination of the flick’s inventions.

The eight-minute and 42-second Original Dick Van Dyke Interview presents a press occasion with the actor that occurred three weeks into the shoot. He addresses a few bland questions but gets some decent ones like a query about the “sad state” of American TV. (The more things change...) Van Dyke also gets into his other then-contemporary projects like Divorce American Style, and he goes over the demise of his TV show and his impressions of “mini-mini skirts.” Nothing incredibly revealing occurs, but it’s an intriguing snapshot of the era.

The last vintage element, The Potts Children featurette lasts 185 seconds. It shows behind the scenes shots from the set and elsewhere and comes with narration mostly from then-young actor Heather Ripley. While we watch the kids in action, we hear superficial comments. It doesn’t offer much of interest and feels like the most blatant example of promotion among the vintage pieces.

The Vintage Advertising Gallery presents a mix of elements. It offers the film’s theatrical trailer as well as a French trailer; oddly, while the latter shows a widescreen image, the former gives us a badly cropped pan and scan take. It also features five TV spots.

Inside the Photo Gallery we find a collection of stills. The area includes 47 pictures in all. This combines publicity and behind the scenes shots for a moderately interesting package.

Some potentially fun activities show up next. A read-along takes you through the movie’s story with or without narration. Two games appear. One Person’s Junk Is Another Person’s Jalopy requires you to memorize different car parts to assemble three items. This offers a pretty tough little contest, though it’s forgiving, so even if you just choose at random, eventually you’ll win as long as you pick all the options. Succeed and you’ll get a little bonus: some information about inventor Rowland Emett and depictions of the creations he came up with for the flick.

Toot Sweet Special Delivery is easier and less interesting. You use your remote’s arrow keys to maneuver about the screen and drop candies for kids. It’s virtually impossible to detect success, as the game doesn’t let you know how well you do until the end. It comes with no reward and seems lame. The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Coloring Book presents a few screens you can print via a DVD-ROM connection and then color.

Lastly, Family Fun Previews adds ads. We get promos for It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Christmas Carol – the Movie, Second Star to the Left, A Freezerburnt Christmas, Good Boy, Hamilton Mattress, Hi5!, Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Kids, and Just for Kicks.

The DVD’s packaging presents some components as well. Bound into the digipak, a 32-page booklet presents a storybook version of the tale along with some credits, chapter listings, and photos.

I really wanted to like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and I respected some elements of the production. However, the movie seems too tedious and free from plot to become anything truly winning. It looks good but doesn’t offer much beyond an attractive exterior. The DVD presents very solid picture and audio plus some light but moderately interesting extras. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Chitty, I can definitely recommend this solid DVD for fans of the flick; after years of asking, they finally got MGM to issue a package they should embrace. Those new to the movie may want to rent it first to see how they feel about it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1739 Stars Number of Votes: 46
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