Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

Directed by Robert Stevenson. Normally I have a rule against reviewing a movie that I fall asleep during, on the grounds that I couldn't give it a fair shake. Recently I have fallen asleep during Disney's "Rascal" (1969), Disney's "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960) and this. I'm not sure if I tend to fall asleep during Disney films or if I have a subconscious tendency to select Disney films when I plan to fall asleep. Either way, I'm going to write about "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" even though I fell asleep during it for two reasons. First, there's no way I will attempt to see it again. Second, I'm pretty sure anyone would fall asleep during this. It's abominable.

Only from the Disney camp could come a half-animated, half-live action musical for children about witches teasing Nazis. I don't mean that metaphorically. The business model seems to have been to capitalize on the family audience for "Mary Poppins" and the post-war interest in flicks like "The Sound of Music." This was obviously lost on me when this was first released and I saw it at a drive-in with my mother. I didn't remember much about it and wanted to see it again. It's one of those Disney films that everybody seems to be aware of by title, but nobody really sees. Well, it's for good reason. Avoid this. It's slow and it's a musical, which is a good enough reason right there to run away.

Musicals are always bad but the way they are bad has changed. Now they are bad because Elton John writes really drippy songs and Mariah Carey yells them at you through your extremely sophisticated sound system. This movie is the old kind of musical: bouncy, bouncy! Lots of people wagging a finger at each other while they sing! And crossing the room! And folding their arms!

Anyway, I made it about 40 minutes into this monstrosity before falling fast asleep. One last complaint about this DVD release; how about giving me a choice of all the crazy various cuts of this film that have been released? Because get this, the disc featured only a "fully-restored" version that runs an insane 139 minutes -- that's two hours and 19 minutes. The original U.S. release was 117 minutes, which is bad enough. When it was re-released in 1980, they had the good sense to cut it down to 99 minutes, though I strongly suspect they didn't cut out stupid songs, but cut out scenes of Nazis that they decided would make Disney look like interesting filmmakers. If you had your choice of cuts, you might want to see the original, indubitably efficient Germany release, which ran 89 minutes.

Though my own personal recommendation is to just take a nap.

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