Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Top 10 Favorite Alien Invasion movies


After 20 years “Independence Day” is finally getting a sequel titled “Independence Day: Resurgence”. With it set to premier this month, it got me thinking about the concept of alien invasion movies, and how they’ve changed and grown over the years. It was the 1950’s when Science fiction cinema reached new heights, and movies revolving around alien invasions became a staple in Hollywood. At the dawn of the 2000’s, the concept began to feel old and “been done”. Regardless, there have still been some outstanding alien invasion movies over the ages, and for today I’ll be counting down my personal 10 favorites. Now in order to make my list, the entire move has to revolve around invading aliens, which means that movies like “Aliens”, “Titan A.E.” and “Star Trek” can’t count. After all, those are outer space adventures that just happen to feature brief scenes of aliens attacking earth.


#10 The Blob (1958) 


Most of the movies on my countdown will be from the 1950’s, and of all them, I think “The Blob” is as 50’s as they get. This is a unique alien invasion film, revolving around a mass of space slime that grows and grows with the more victims it claims. This is definitely a product of its time, but it’s so classy, fun and was the film debut for actor Steve McQueen, that alone makes it worthwhile. The special effects and miniatures are also very charming in their own unique way. In the end, The Blob is no masterpiece of cinema, but it’s a prime example of how satisfying cheesy B-Monster thrills can be. 








  

#9 Invaders from Mars (1953) 


With its super cliché genera title, cheap look and silly alien designs, this film can easily be regarded as a pore mans “War of the Worlds” and be largely dismissed. However, this film has its own strengths and appeals. As you’d expect from the title, the film revolves around aliens coming from Mars to invade the earth, but it’s not done on a big invasion scale, it’s actually very subdued. The whole film takes place from the perspective of a child who lives out in a desolate location, and is the only one aware that an invasion of any sort is happening. The film creates a surprisingly unique atmosphere and mood as this boy is all alone, his parents are replaced by alien imposters, and the rest of the world is unaware of an invasion taking place right under its very nose. It’s still a campy product of its time, but with enough merits to stand on its own.   






#8 War of the Worlds (2005) 


I can’t say that I’m too fond of remakes, but they can be done well, and I found the 2005 remake of “War of the Worlds” to be a respectable Sci-Fi thriller for the modern age. The ace up this movies sleeve is that while the plot revolves around a global invasion, the focus is all on one small family that’s just trying to escape the cause. With very little focus on military planning or even big battles, I felt very drawn into the experience, almost as if it was actually happening, and I was on the run with this family. There’s some great atmosphere, lots of built-up tension, and despite some big budget visual effects, it never really came off like a typical summer blockbuster. My only real complaint is that in general, it’s so different from “War of the Worlds” it could have had its own original title, without the baggage of being called a remake.  






#7 Earth VS the Flying Saucers (1956) 


This has got to be the text book definition of an alien invasion movie. The image of the flying saucer is the most recognizable and iconic of alien space crafts, and this is the classic movie that helped influence several other alien films ranging from “Mars Attacks” to “Independence Day”. The plot is about as strait forward as they get, it’s a full blown alien invasion with these flying saucers attacking famous cities. While it’s both campy and dated, it was undeniably a huge benchmark in UFO pop culture. The special effects were done by the great Ray Harryhausen, and for the time, these visuals were real marvels to behold. If you’re a long time Sci-Fi fan like me, then this film is definitely worth checking out because this is where the alien invasion genera really started.






#6 Predator (1987) 


We’ve seen what happens when armies of aliens attack earth, but here’s what happens when a single lone alien invaders the planet. A team of armed soldiers are stranded in the jungle and have become targets for an alien hunter, which leads to thrilling battles, and a standoff match against one of the most iconic looking movie monsters of all time. The concept of a small group of people being stocked and killed by a hostile alien creature had been done before in “The Thing from Another World”, but the formula was perfected in “Predator”. It’s one of the classic Sci-Fi/ action movies of the 80’s, with an all star cast, and some staler monster makeup. 









#5 Mars Attacks! (1996) 


With a title like that, you really shouldn’t be surprised with what you get. This underrated Tim Burton comedy is very much like a 50’s Sci-Fi that just happened to be released in the 90’s. It’s faithful to the genera, and has a lot of fun with just how silly and over the top it gets. Some regular movie goers may get turned off by just how ridiculous the film is, but I still enjoy it to this day, and it’s actually one of my favorite Tim Burton movies. The Martians in the film are very memorable, the cast full of famous celebrities is very amusing, and the films goofy tone makes it feel like a celebration of the genera, but that’s all subject to my personal taste.









#4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) 


The concept of aliens invading the planet with an army of spaceships dose get old after a while, so why not do something completely different and original? Well, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is that original take on the alien invasion genera, and a perfect blend of Sci-Fi and horror. In this film, a race of space pods land on earth and take the identical form of nearby humans, and then the original is killed in their sleep. It’s an exciting and terrifying concept that subjects you into a situation where you can’t trust anyone, and despite being short on special effects, it’s still very exciting to watch. It also works as a political allegory, and highlights themes around socialism, making it one of the smarter films of its kind. It’s highly original, thrilling, and worth checking out.    







#3 Independence Day (1996) 


Over the past millennium, there have been several big blockbusters banking on the concept of alien invaders, however, they’ve never been able to surpass “Independence Day”. In my opinion, this is the last truly classic Sci-Fi alien invasion movie that phew others have been able to surpass. It has a memorable cast, iconic visuals, big blockbuster thrills, and some quotable lines. It left such an impact on our pop culture that every alien invasion movie that followed seemed to be trapped under its massive shadow. No Sci-Fi blockbuster list is complete without it, and it’s rightfully become the staple of alien movies for our generation.  






          


#2 The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) 


This is the classic Sci-Fi film that brings a very different twist to the alien invasion genera. Instead of featuring fleets of ships attack famous cities, this film revolves around a single alien and his indestructible robot who deliver an ultimatum to the people of Earth, either we evolve and begin a new era of peace, or the alien forces will wipe us out. While the anti war message is obvious, it’s still relevant to this day, and conveyed fairly well in the film. I especially like how the story revolves around a visiting alien that’s trying desperately to make peace with human kind. There isn’t much action or visual spectacles, but there’s great tension, the characters are all memorable, and to this day it still stands as one of the greatest Science Fiction movies of all time.





 

Before I reveal my #1 favorite here are some quick Honorable Mentions ...


Killer Clowns from Outer Space (1988)

The Thing (1982)

Signs (2002)

20,000 Miles to Earth (1957)






#1 The War of the Worlds (1953) 


While the concept of alien invasion movies has become tired and clichéd in general, “War of the Worlds” still remains a classic. The concept is no different from any other films involving Martians trying to concur earth, but the overall presentation, tone and execution is far superior to any other film from its time. Right from the films epic opening narration, this film reels me in and delivers an experience, rather than just flashy entertainment, although the film has that too ... in bucket loads. The sound effects, color pallet, and unique alien designs are amazing cinematic marvels for the 50’s and still hold up to this day. Even though the acting is kind of “meh”, the overall atmosphere and tone stay consistently strong, and to this day I still regard the 1953 picture “The War of the Worlds” as more than just my own personal favorite alien invasion movie, it’s one of cinemas greatest classic Science Fiction motion pictures.     




The End

Monday, June 27, 2016

Finding Dory (2016) (Movie Review) (First Impressions)


    Why is it that now days, when a movie is released in the theater, a sequel is already in the works? Personally, I think the best movie sequels are the ones that take their time, and don’t come out right away. The animated motion picture “Finding Nemo” came out in 2004, and its first sequel titled “Finding Dory” came out in 2016. That’s over 10 years, and at this point, a great film of this sort earns a sequel. My sister and I watched “Finding Nemo” all the time back when we were kids, so it felt like real treat after all these years to go back to that beautiful underwater Ocean world and reunite with so many familiar characters. Even if the movie wasn’t good, I’d have still been happy just with the novelty of a sequel to one of my favorite child hood films. As it turns out, “Finding Dory” was actually a very good sequel, maybe not as good as the first, but a worthy follow up.


    Now the fish Dory was “Finding Nemo’s” big break out character that we all loved, a story dedicated to her could have flopped but I felt the writers put genuine care into this project, and more importantly into this characters journey. Dory is a fish who suffers from short term memory loss, and before the events of the first film, she was separated from her parents, and completely forgot about them. Now the story continues one year after the events of the first film, and some small memories of Dory’s family have started to resurface. Worried she may forget again, Dory follows her feelings and sets out on a journey to find them, with Nemo and Marlin joining her for the adventure. Through a series of events, the two find themselves picked up by humans and dropped in a massive aquarium. With the aid of an escaped octopus, the team venture through a maze of aquatic exhibits, meet some colorful characters, and unravel the secret of Dory’s missing family.


     This is a case in which a sequel borrows some familiar plot elements from its predecessor, but dose something new and original with them. The character Dory has always been a magnificent hybrid of comedy and tragedy, as she’s lively, funny and upbeat, but has the undercurrents of a really tragic story, as well as emotionally troubling handicap. The tone of the movie seems to reflect this perfectly as it’s transitions from comedy adventure, to deep family morals are seamless. The new supporting characters are decent enough, but I think they lack that same magical spark of the original characters, some of most of which make some welcome appearances in the film. This includes the sea turtle crush, and even the tank gang from the first film have a very well placed cameo during the after credit scene. As far as the animation is concerned, the film once again looks gorges and the aquarium setting is actually a lot of fun to explore. There are a lot of standout dramatic moments that do a great job putting you in the characters perspective and paranoia, which are effective, but there’s more also than enough cheerful moments to help balance things out.


     I’ll admit, nothing about this sequel knocked my socks off, and there are some cartoony antics that seem at odds with the films overall tone and theme, but overall it’s still a very good sequel. It further developed and highlighted one of the original films best characters, was a fitting continuation of its predecessor and one of the better Pixar sequels. Take your kids to see it, they’ll love it, and if you’re a fan of the original, it makes for a nostalgic return back to the sea.


                                                         I give “Finding Dory” 4 stars out of 5.         

Sunday, June 12, 2016

My Top 10 Favorite Villain Songs


Sometimes, a good musical soundtrack just feels more complete with a little touch of an evil musical number. Yes, time for me to highlight the bad guys again, and this time I’ll be counting down my personal favorite villain songs from either musicals or movies. For this list, I’ll be highlighting these songs in general, and not a specific version, well, with some exceptions. Weather you enjoy the villains or not, they always shine in their musical numbers, and here are my personal top 10 favorites.      


#10 “March of the Winkies” (from “The Wizard of Oz”)


Kicking off my list is that classic evil guard chant, which to this day is always subconsciously playing in the back of my mind whenever I see an evil army in movies. I still have no clue what the heck these guys are even chanting, it just sounds awesome! For such a minimal song, it’s got an exciting tempo and great buildup. It’s also a rare case in which the guards actually have a stand out song as opposed to the main villain.  


#9 “Secret of Survival” (from “Wind in the Willows/ Mr. Toads Wild Ride”)


I’ve only seen this movie once in my lifetime, and it was mostly forgettable. However, the villain song titled “Secret of Survival” is outstanding, and well worth addressing on my countdown. It revolves around a grope of nasty weasels who begin tormenting a pore traveler in the woods, and their song is every bit as threatening as it is thrilling. With cool angles, heavy shadows, creepy visuals, and a melody that resembles a racing heart beat, this is one lesser known villain song that disserves more attention and stands out as a small gem from a sub-par family picture.


#8 “Shiver my Timbers” (from “Muppet Treasure Island”) 


Can’t say I was a really big Muppet fan growing up (I’m still not), and I didn’t even like this movie that much, yet I remember watching it often as a kid, probably because this opening song was so awesome that I just got suckered in, and couldn’t look away. Seriously, for a Muppet movie, this is a legit opening song that gets you in the mood for a high sea adventure with pirates. The backup singers are still puppets, giving it the appropriate Muppet feel, but the tone and style is different. We got these massive stone faces and skeletons adding to the visuals, coupled with a music track composed by the great Hans Zimmer, which instantly gets me hyped. The movie is average, but this opening villain song is still very memorable, and a personal favorite.  
   

 #7 “My friends” (from “Sweeney Todd”)


Honestly, I could have filled this list entirely with songs from “Sweeney Todd” as there were so many great ones to highlight, including “Pretty Woman” which is a close second favorite of mine. However, the stand out song for me is one of the earlier songs titled “My friends”. This is the moment when we really see the villain born, it’s the moment in which “his arm is complete again” and it’s the song that sets the stage for what’s to come. The melody is very simple, even relaxing, yet every lyric is dripping with menacing foreshadowing of what this monster can and ultimately will do. It’s a quiet, yet effective song that always gives me chills, and really gets things started. 


#6 “The Temple” (from “Jesus Christ Superstar”)


Now here’s a really underrated villain song that probably never crosses anyone’s mind when the subject comes up, however, “Jesus Christ Superstar” was one of those big musicals I grew up with, so I know the songs inside out, and this was always a stand out song for me. At this point in the show, Jesus Christ and his disciples wander into one of his sacred temples, which has been corrupted by the most sinful of the towns inhabitants. It’s very different from other villain songs, as it doesn’t involve a “bad guy” explaining an evil plan of any sort. This song revolves around the crime and sin of humanity, detailing the dirty underbelly of those who fall from grace. The imagery is revolting, and the musical tempo is very lively as is just builds and builds with every second. It’s about as sinful as villain songs get, and once that music starts in the beginning, I can never get the beat out of my head. 
       

#5 “Stars” (from “Les Miserables”)


This is a very different kind of villain song, in fact, if you listened to this on its own, you probably wouldn’t even think of it as the bad guy’s song. In the classic Broadway musical “Les Miserables”, the ever determined Inspector Javert seeks out the shows lead hero, who’s branded a fugitive, and running from the law. This song highlights his passion to hunt down his enemy, even if he has to keep up the chase for the rest of his life. Inspector Javert has always stood out as one of the classiest musical villains to me, as he’s just a loyal man sworn to his duty, but it’s his unbroken pride and hatred for our hero’s that still make him the quote “Bad Guy”, and his song is a powerhouse number, filled with passion, intimidation, buildup, and it all closes on one heck of a high note.  
   

#4 “In the Dark of the Night” (from “Anastasia”)


Well, it was about time I had a villain song from an animated movie on my countdown, isn’t it. I still remember the first time seeing this movie in the theater, way back when I was just a little kid, and I immediately declared “In the Dark of the Night” as my favorite villain song I ever heard. To this day, it still holds up as one of the most unforgettable numbers I’ve ever seen. It strikes a perfect balance between being lively and upbeat, but it’s also threatening and dark. Plus, the overall rock theme is so catchy it’s almost impossible to get out of your head. The visual style is engrossing, the villain himself is a lot of fun to watch, and the lyrics ... well, are silly, but they mostly work and are easy to follow. I think the majority of villain songs from animated films (with the exception of Disney) are pretty mediocre, but this is one exception where it really belongs among the greats.  
  

#3 “He had it Coming” (from “Chicago”)


Oh hell yeah, I know most fans of “Chicago” would say that “All that Jazz” is the best song, but for me, it’s this awesome villain number titled “He had it Coming”. At this stage of the musical, our female lead is spending her first night in a woman’s prison, and finds herself surrounded by some bad ladies who all share their back stories in this powerhouse dance number. It’s a great concept, and the individual stories could have been the center of their own films. More than anything, I just love how this whole scene was shot and put together. The dance choreography is great, the set design is visually awesome, the lighting is stylish, and even the edits are perfectly synchronized with the dance moves. Most of my favorite villain songs can at least stand as highlights, but this song really is “THE HIGHLIGHT” of the musical.


#2 “The Phantom of the Opera Theme Song” (from “The Phantom of the Opera”)


It’s one of Broadways most classic musicals, featuring one of the most iconic musical villains of all time, and his theme song is nothing short of sensational. It’s actually become one of my favorite songs to listen to around Halloween, it’s just so gothic and mystiques, yet it’s also very lively and epic in its own way. The lyrics are memorable, the sets and visuals are captivating and personally, I always remember this as the great classic musical villain theme song. 


Before I reveal my #1 pick, here are some Honorable Mentions ...


“You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch” (from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”)

Be a Dentist (from “Little Shop of Horrors”)

“Come Little Children” (from “Hocus Pocus”)

“Playing with the Big Boys Now” (from “The Prince of Egypt”)

“I’m Just a Sweet Transvestite” (from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”)



#1 Every Classic Disney Villain song ever! (from Various Disney Movies)


Yeah, I couldn’t pick one single favorite, and I couldn’t crowd this list with them either. Seriously though, what’s the first thing that instantly comes to mind when you hear the faze “Villain Song”. For me, it’ll always be the classic animated villain songs that always come to mind first. We all know their titles, we remember the lyrics, and they helped breathe life into some of our favorite child hood villains. I think “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, “Be Prepared” and “The Cruella Deville Song” are their most iconic, but even their more obscure songs “Friends on the Other Side” and “Gaston’s Song” are still really memorable. My two personal favorite Disney villain songs are “Savages” from “Pocahontas” and “Hellfire” from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Both were far darker, more serious in tone, and had some hauntingly arresting visuals. In the long run, its Disney’s collection of classic animated villain songs that have always felt the most timeless, and the most awesome!

    

The End

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) Movie Review


     Some family films are timeless classics, others come and go, and there’s even those that were initially conceived as classics for their time, but haven’t exactly aged well. Such family films like “The Wizard of Oz”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” are still beloved house hold titles, and have only gained more admiration over the ages. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you get something like the 1968 family musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, which I loved as a kid, and still regard as something of a classic in its own right, but admittedly, I don’t think it’s aged quiet as well as the previously mentioned films. It's actually kind of a mess with its delivery, and the script makes countless detours that just don’t click with a narrative story. The film undeniably has its moments that still shine, but without the nostalgia goggles on, dose “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” still hold up as a good movie?



    The film opens with a montage of European Grand Prix races in which a particular car wins every race, but in the final race, the car loses control, crashes and explodes. This opening gives the false impression that the movie will revolve around a broken car that will get one last chance to race again, probably on the same lines of something like Disney’s “The Love Bug”, but you’d be wrong.
The car is sent to the scrap yard where it’s discovered by two kids who want to take it home, but they better get some money, and soon before it gets sold to a guy that threatens to melt it down. The car centered story then hits the breaks as the two children come across a lady named Truly Scrumptious, who’s annoyed that the kids aren’t in school, and just aren’t being raised properly. Their father is Professor Potts, a crazy inventor of sorts who clearly loves his kids, but he keeps getting sidetracked creating machines that just never work. After several attempts to sell his inventions, make some money, and get along with Truly Scrumptious, our motor car finally comes back and gets a sweet makeover from our crafty inventor. However, the car went through more than just a shinny makeover, it can now fly, and even transform into a boat. The car soon gets the attention of a pirate, who aims to take the vehicle by force. After several failed attempts, he captures the families grandfather, and leads our hero’s to his Kingdome called Vulgaria. 

From this point, the film takes a 90 degree turn in both story and setting. Now the film becomes a fantasy adventure, and revolves around this Kingdome, which has outlawed children. Yeah, all the children are either imprisoned or surviving underground, avoiding the clutches of a nasty child catcher. When the professors own children get kidnapped, he leads both the town’s kids and their parents on a revolt against the evil king and queen. It all builds to a wild climax in which our hero’s invade the castle, get into sword fights, liberate the prisoners, and somewhere in this mess is a mechanical car that’s trying so hard to get some attention in his movie.



     See what I mean by inconsistent narrative, or even theme? The plot is just a mess, as if several different scripts were spliced together into one screenplay. I didn’t even mention all the pointless little detours, and side plots that are going on in the film. There’s also the dad trying to impress the owner of a candy factory, there’s grandfathers side adventure, and a sub-plot involving the kids trying to get our two leads to fall in love so they’ll have a complete family again. There’s another sub-plot involving two bumbling fools who are constantly failing to steal the motor car. Their antics are like a poor man’s version of a laurel and hardy sketch. To be fair, the scattered premise may have a lot to do with the source material. The film is based on the children’s novel called “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car”, but very loosely. The novel was written by the late Ian Fleming, who’s arguably best known for creating the famous 007 character, and launching the James Bond Novels. On that note, it should come as no surprise that “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was produced by Albert R. Broccoli, who co-produced most of the early James Bond movies. Anyway, I’m not familiar enough with the source material to call this a faithful adaption or not, but I will say that the great family films of old like “Mary Poppins”, and “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” all had a focused story, and any detours they might have taken still added up to a central theme. I don’t even know what the message of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is supposed to be, it’s a serious of fun events that function well enough on their own, but don’t really tie in with any central narrative.



     The most famous image the movie markets most is that of the flying motor car, but I have to admit, the flying car effects in the movie have not aged well at all, with obvious green screen outlines that really take you out of the moment. The car itself is still one of my favorite movie props I’ve ever seen. This motorcars colorful exterior design makes it feel iconic, and there’s just something really special about it whenever it’s on screen. I like the variety of things it can do, I also like that it has personality, despite not having a face or voice, and it’s probably my favorite character in the film. Unfortunately, unlike Herby the love bug, this movie really isn’t about the motorcar at all. Seriously, titling this movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is the equivalent of naming the first “Star Wars” movie “Space Ship Millennium Falcon”, and even that’s being generous. Still, Chitty is one of my favorite movie vehicles. The actual car scene in the film has been preserved over the years, and was eventually purchased by none other than “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson.  



     Well, let’s take a look at the other characters, most notably Professor Potts, who’s played by the always charismatic Dick Van Dyke. Now the movie introduces him in a rather unlikable way, as he’s oblivious to his children, doesn’t seem to care that their skipping school, and acts like a real jerk to Truly Scrumptious, who only had the children’s best interest in mind. Shortly afterwards, we do start to warm up to the guy, but he has no real reformation or anything, so why set him up like such a jerk in the opening? Of course it’s Dick Van Dyke who completely saves this character. The guy's just so naturally likable, and a real joy whenever he’s on screen. Our female lead is Truly Scrumptious, played by Sally Ann Howes, and once again, the character is generic, but the actress lends some genuine likability to the role. Julie Andrews was originally offered the part, but she turned it down thinking the role was too similar to “Mary Poppins”, especially sense she’d be reuniting with Dick Van Dyke. The kids are typical “movie kids”, the evil Barren and wife are generic over the top villains that get on my nerves, and the grandfather played by Lionel Jeffries is your typical loony grandfather.   


     

    Let’s finally talk about the most memorable character of all, that being the evil child catcher played by the late Robert Helpmann. He’s dispatched by the evil king and queen to round up all the children of the land, but he’s cleaver and knows how to draw them out with sweet treats. This is a rare case in which a small supporting villain completely upstages the main antagonist, and was the stuff of nightmares for kids. This guy’s got one of the best creepy designs ever, sporting a massive hat, all black attire and one hell of a disfigured long nose. He’s such a perfect offset to the films playful overtone, and even though he’s not in the movie for long, he still stands out for being the only creepy addition to the film. I’ll admit, he’s not on par with the really great family movie villains like the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz” or Judge Doom from “Who Framed Rodger Rabbit”. I honestly don’t even remember the child catcher scaring me too much as a kid, but the concept of a nasty man bribing children with sweets, followed by locking them in a cage is definitely unsettling on some level. If anything, this movie taught a generation of children to stay away from strangers with candy.   



    Another ace up the movies sleeve is its technical inventiveness. The effects really aren’t that impressive, but there’s some real imagination that goes into all these locations and sets, which are more than enough to win me over. It’s very colorful to look at, and every location has its own personality and charm. There’s the professors laboratory which is full of wild contraptions, the candy factory, and the castle with all its lavish interiors. My favorite prop by far is the professors cooking machine, which countless other children’s movies have tried to recreate, but failed to capture the same magic feel of this awesome contraption. Director Ken Hughes’s really knows how to highlight all the fantasy elements of the film, but I think the songs could have been shot and edited a little better.   


       
    Speaking of which, one of the biggest staples of any classic family movie of this sort are its musical numbers. In regards to this film, there’s only one truly great song that never fails to make me smile and that’s the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Theme Song” itself. Seriously, no matter how old the film gets, this song still remains timeless, and deservedly got an Oscar nod. It’s one of those cheerful tunes that always get me whistling along with the melody or even singing along with the lyrics, which are memorable.

Even if you’ve never watched the movie, you’re probably still familiar with this song on some level. I remember most of my elementary school friends knew of this song thanks to Jim Carry, who parodied the song in the 1995 comedy “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”. The remaining songs however are, well ... not very good. The segues between narrative and songs are poorly handled as most of these musical numbers just happen without reason or proper buildup. For example, there’s a scene when the grandfather gets kidnapped, and as he’s being up-ducted he randomly breaks into this song titled “Posh!” which revolves around his love for traveling and has nothing to do with the situation. It sounds terrible, the staging is awkward and it just waists time. Actually, the majority of these songs add nothing to the story or characters, there just there for the sake of having songs in a family musical. The song “Toot Sweets” comes off very randomly, as it’s a number dedicated entirely to “a candy”, and has nothing to do with anything else in the film, but at least the setting of the candy factory is great, and both the staging and dance choreography is good.



      Some of these numbers can get away with little things like that, including the song “Me Ol’ Bamboo”, which is at least a nice dance number, and features some breathless dance choreography. Unfortunately for Dick Van Dyke, he’s not a very good singer, and this is a problem as many of these songs depend on his singing qualities, which just aren’t that good. 

The song “Truly Scrumptious” had the potential to be a decent bonding song between the kids and our female lead, and even has a nice melody to boot, but the whole thing comes off as cheesy, and the kids obviously aren’t very good singers. Actress Sally Ann Howes at least has a very good singing voice with great range, and it helps save some otherwise boring song numbers. This includes her stand alone love song titled “Lonely Lonely Man”, which is very generic and dull, but the setting is at least pretty to look at. The worst song by far is titled “Chu-Chi Face”, which is sung by our stupid main villain who’s trying to comically kill his wife, which is nothing short of annoying. Even the exciting climax gets derailed by a long and boring song number titled “Doll on a Music Box”, which goes on for way to long, and features Dick Van Dyke doing a bad dance imitation of the scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz”. All the other songs aren’t even worth mentioning, as their forgettable, they meander and just don’t stick with me. It’s a shame because these songs were done by the Sherman Brothers, who usually hit it out of the park, and are best known for their musical work from classic Disney movies like “Mary Poppins”. I think they put all their focus on the theme song, and were running on fumes for the other musical numbers, but that’s just me.     



      In the end, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” may not have aged as well as other classic children’s movies, and may annoy more than entertain, but it’s not without some charm and likability. It’s undeniably imaginative, and even though the plot’s a scattered mess, it offers a wide variety different experiences in one film, all with the same magical overtone, and it’s consistently pleasing to look at. While most of the characters are average, the cast do them justice, and besides, who doesn’t enjoy Dick Van Dyke in his prime. Not every family film needs to go down in history like “The Wizard of Oz”. Sometimes a film just needs to be charming and memorable in a small way, and that’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in a nut shell. It’s good for the young at heart, and a mostly nostalgic treat for those of us that grew up with it. However, I really don’t know if kids today would have the same interest in this kind of film. Family movies have changed radically, and a musical of this sort may come off as boring, or just plain silly to the kids of this generation. Personally, I still like it, the cast is good, the technical inventiveness is very fun, and the music can be charming, at least the theme song is still very charming.


                                     I give “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” 3 stars out of 5.