Bedknobs and Broomsticks [1971]

Director: Robert Stevenson
Stars: Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowall, Sam Jaffe, John Ericson
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Rating: G (General Audience)
Runtime: 139 minutes

When a mail-order apprentice witch (Angela Lansbury) is saddled with three sibling refugees from London during World War II, the outlook is grim. But the kids soon discover her secret and sign on for adventure in the name of England. With the aid of a magical bed, they track down her fraudulent headmaster (David Tomlinson) to find the spell that will aid the Allies. Fascinated that she has actually achieved results with his lessons, he joins forces. The quintet does battle with corrupt booksellers, animated-lion royalty, and, eventually, invading Germans. Songs include Lansbury's Oscar-nominated "The Age of Not Believing." This film is often compared to director Robert Stevenson's earlier effort, Mary Poppins, and for good reason. In addition to Tomlinson, the movies share a fondness for magic at the hands of a good woman, light romance with an understanding male, and wide-eyed children. Stevenson also graces both films with interaction between humans and animated animals. Disney is wise to play up that aspect on its box this time around as both the underwater ball and the subsequent island soccer match are the most visually interesting and appealing parts of the film. Adults may find the 1971-vintage mixing of actors and animation a bit creaky, but kids used to a variety of animation quality will find the action a hoot. Ages 4 and up. The movie has been recut several times but was restored to the original length of 139 minutes for its 30th anniversary in 2001. --Kimberly Heinrichs

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