1.) This movie really exemplifies the differences in pacing between movies made in the 1960s and movies made now. If you asked most people what Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is about, they’d tell you “it’s about a family going on a fantastic adventure thanks to a magical car.”
This is not entirely wrong, but in a movie that runs two hours and twenty-five minutes (ASIDE: holy shit, this is a long movie) there is quite literally no adventure at all until the first hour is almost done, because the movie feels the need to introduce the car itself in its racing prime (the first five minutes, and man do they drag), Dick Van Dyke and family, explain why Dick Van Dyke is brilliant but poor, introduce multiple failed ideas by Dick Van Dyke to make money so he can buy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, finally let him succeed, then have him repair the car. Only then, at minute fifty-seven, does the movie that anybody actually remembers as “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” actually begin. This is a movie that was designed to have an intermission (it’s included on my DVD version of it) and shouldn’t have one and should be at least forty minutes shorter.
Another differences between movies made in the 1960s and now: we don’t have nearly as many comic mock-German performances these days.
2.) Another reason the movie should be shorter: the actors playing the children are singularly shrill and talentless. Whenever the movie focuses on anybody other than the children, it dances. When it focuses on Jeremy and Jemima (oh, yeesh) it drags. Plus, their characters are retards. When the Childcatcher (an idea that is singularly ludicrous but works because of it) shows up pretending to be a candy salesman, they fall for it despite that they just saw him not five minutes previous in the movie, threatening their death and everything, but hey, he promised treacle tarts! Watching this movie again, I suddenly remembered that at the age of ten I thought these kids were idiots. I strongly doubt I was alone in this regard.
3.) I’ve grown so used to Dick Van Dyke in elderly-doctor mode over the years that I’d forgotten what an absolutely brilliant physical comedian he was in his prime. When he impersonates the giant puppet in the “toys for the Baron” sequence, he does it perfectly – you can almost see the nonexistent strings holding him up, particularly in a couple of moments where I honestly can’t figure out how he managed to stay upright given how off-balance he was. It’s glorious to watch. And he’s just a solid comic actor, which people tend to overlook sometimes due to his dreadful Cockney accent in Mary Poppins. (Also, a fun fact: Lionel Jeffries, playing Dick Van Dyke’s father in the movie, is one year older than Van Dyke.)
4.) Benny Hill, as the Toymaker, moves with such frustrated energy it fascinates me – every step is a bounce, his walk is a tightly constrained run, his arm motions are thrusts and sweeps rather than easy movement. Watching him, it’s easy to think that he just wants the Yakety Sax to start up and have somebody in a gorilla suit chase him around the set.
5.) My god, if there was ever a movie demanding to be remade as a balls-out family fantasy adventure, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is that movie. Keep the car. Don’t bother to explain anything beyond handwaving of the vaguest sort possible. “It’s quantum, that’s how it works. Trust the quantum-ness.” Travel to a parallel Earth. Aliens! Childcatchers with spidery, robotic limbs! Baron and Baroness Bomburst being even more insane (if such a thing is possible – they’re pretty insane in the original, after all)! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flying over distant horizons! Somehow, Uluru is involved! Hot damn it would be fantastic.