Excerpted from : Holiday Movies: Favorites of the Season, Cherished All Year

The New York Times, 28 October 2011
* Thanks Jane

‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ (1968)

My personal checklist of requirements for a memorable holiday film:

Unforgettable name.

This film’s title is both a series of pleasingly odd noises and the pet name of the eponymous motorcar (which can fly of course).


The movie has an intermission.

This proves it takes the time appropriate for some extended family fun. It luxuriates in its length, its saturated ’60s color and its all-ages-friendly, melody-packed musical score.


Has to be scary in parts.

Robert Helpmann’s indelible performance as the Child Catcher is one of the most terrifying in family film history.


Has to be funny.

Any movie with Benny Hill playing a toymaker has a chance to make you laugh, and with a Germanic king serenading his queen with a Dalí-esque number titled “Chu-Chi Face,” there will be chuckles.


Has to have dancing.

In this case Dick Van Dyke at his most irresistibly charming, with a bamboo cane and a manic vaudeville shuffle.


Must have a beautiful lady.

Sally Anne Howes as our grown-up heroine. Elegant, stylish, unflappable.


Must have partly naughty, partly angelic children as heroes.


Must have a partly surreal quality.

Our hero, Caractacus Potts (Mr. Van Dyke), invents a vast, room-filling breakfast-making machine that is so Willy Wonkily wacky it would make every reluctant child happily eat their porridge.


Must make you cry.

I defy you to hear the father sing “Hushabye Mountain” to his adoring children at holiday time and not have everyone in floods of beautiful loving tears.

But maybe that’s just me?

Yes, it is.


KENNETH BRANAGH, portraying Laurence Olivier in “My Week With Marilyn,” opening Nov. 23.

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