Rightfully criticized as being unsuccessful in its attempts to emulate Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks nevertheless is a quite likeable and rather appealing musical for children. More heavily plotted than Poppins -- perhaps a bit too much so -- Bedknobs also has a bit more meat on its bones -- again, perhaps a bit too much so. Both of these factors tend to make Bedknobs a little heavy-going at times. While the special effects themselves soar and glide, the film itself is not able to float along as effortlessly as it needs to. Part of the problem of the original was sheer length; at 141 minutes it was too long. (Conversely, the 117-minute edited version is too choppy.) The film is also not helped by the uninspired Sherman Brothers score, which revisits too many of their better-realized Poppins songs. The moody "Portobello Road" is a major exception, although it goes on too long, and "Substitutiary Locomotion" is enjoyable, despite its derivativeness. Fortunately, Bedknobs has tremendous assets in its cast, design, and special effects, which combine to make up for the shortcomings in script and song. The visual effects are exceptional, and the costumes and overall production design are quite magical. Angela Lansbury gives a magnetic performance, galvanizing the material and bringing the film to life as easily as she does inanimate objects. David Tomlinson is surprisingly well matched with her, and the children are fine. While it's a shame that Bedknobs is not the classic it could have been, there are more than enough assets to make it worth watching.
by Craig Butler review