Every summer, I get the urge to write. A craving to create something that is largely for me (although family, friends, and kind strangers are also welcome to peruse – validate me).
About a year ago, my sister and I toyed with the idea of doing a podcast on lessons-learned through the viewing of classic films; there is a wealth of knowledge and beauty to be mined from these flicks. We wanted to give parents a glimpse into what they offer, and we also wanted to take on a project that our late father once held near and dear to his heart.
The podcast fell through, but the idea (like Don Quixote charging windmills on the plains of La Mancha), refuses to quit. Ergo, starting today, I will make weekly posts on the classic* films of my yester-years and share what makes them worth your time.
* “classic” does not refer to quality, but will instead mean any movie that was made before 1990.
These posts will not be limited to “kids” movies either. I watched a lot of stuff growing up, some of it very scary and/or serious, which I no longer regret. However, in an effort to prevent well-meaning parentals from psychologically-scarring their little ones, I’ll conclude each post with a Head’s Up report on aspects of the film that can be frightening, problematic, or require off-screen chats. I’ll also be discussing numerous plot points in each post, so spoilers will be tagged in blue.
I embark on this endeavor with a review of Disney’s live-action fantasy: Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). As summarized on its IMDb page: “an apprentice-witch, three kids and a cynical conman search for the missing component to a magic spell useful to the defense of Britain.”
Centered around the WWII London Evacuations, the film shares some similarities with another story of spunky kids who fall into magic and mischief in the English countryside. As an older sibling, I recall this film as one that made me keenly aware of doing the best that I could by my little sister; without Mom and Dad, someone has to be responsible. You see this often in British fantasy films, but what was unique about Bedknobs and Broomsticks was how, mixed in with the talking animals, there were very real threats facing these characters, like the threat of a Nazi invasion into their idyllic village.
In the film’s third act, as we watch an enemy battalion take over the castle and hold our heroes hostage, the script makes it very clear that these are not fairy tale boogeymen or the ill-tempered magical creatures the kids have faced before, but a legitimately-terrifying force. This change in stakes is subsequently what makes it so inspiring when everyone bands together to fight them off, including characters who had been desperate to not get involved. This is one of the central messages of the film: you must not let fear stop you from doing what’s right.
For instance, Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) knows that she may be only an apprentice-witch (and not a very good one at that), but she is determined to help the war effort. The children, initially sullen and resentful, eventually embrace this new adventure and aid Miss Price in finding the lost spell. And of course, there is the cathartic moment when the self-professed cowardly conman, Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson), stops running and realizes that some things, like love, are worth the danger.
The lesson is especially relevant today, when it feels like everything is going wrong in the world and it’s all beyond our control. Bedknobs and Broomsticks reminds us that this thinking is false; by being kind and resourceful and trying your best, you really do make a difference. You never know what sort of impact your actions will have. The movie also tells us to LISTEN to those around us. Particularly in the scene where it’s revealed that the Star of Astaroth was printed inside the children’s book all along. Sometimes those silly grownups think they know best; always rushing to solve the problem. And although this means that our heroes didn’t have to go through all that trouble to find the spell, their shared experience is what brings them together. The love we find at the end of the journey is the real magic. *cue violins*
In closing, here is what Bedknobs and Broomsticks can teach us:
- The bond between siblings is messy and magical
- Life is scary, but you should try your best
- Never devalue your attempts to make the world a better place
Head’s Up: As this is a Disney film intended for younger audiences, there is not too much to be wary of in this one. However, I advise parents to be prepared to talk to their children about WWII and how it affected families across Europe and in Great Britain. If you’re stumped, I encourage you to visit your local library and ask for assistance from the
What Memories do you have of this film? Do you have Suggestions for my next post? Additional Resources to share on this one? Please, Comment below!
As always, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”