Set during the 1940's London Blitz, miss Eglantine Price (played by Angela Lansbury) unwillingly adopts three siblings due to the laws back then. At first, they don't see eye to eye until the kids catch Miss Price riding on a broom like a witch one night. They find out she's really an apprentice witch (you know, a witch in training) to use her magic for the war effort and in exchange for their silence, Miss Price casts a spell on a bedknob that Paul removed from a brass bed in their room. When re-attached to the bed, it will travel anywhere that Paul asks. The next day, Miss Price receives a letter from the headteacher of her correspondence school informing her he is closing the college due to the war and cannot provide her with a crucial spell she has been waiting for to help her cause. As a result, she asks Paul if she can use the bed to go to London to track him down. They do find her professor, only to find that he was really a con artist and he's surprised that the magic words he thought were nonsense work for Price. She asks for a book that has a spell in it that makes inanimate objects to life because it could help with the defense of Britannia. After a trip to Portebello Road, they find it only to see it's on a medallion. So they travel to the island of Naboombu, where it's at, to get it. After a soccer match, Browne manages to trick it off the island's king and they head back to the cottage. They get it to work only to have the kids find a new home. That night the German army attacks Britain. Using the Substitutiary Locomotion spell, Ms. Price defeats the army but ends up destroying her workshop, ending her days as a witch. In the end, the kids come back to live with Miss Price and Mr. Browne joins the Home Guard, satisfied with their contributions to the war effort.
Let's start with the good things. First off is Angela Lansbury as Miss Price. She's really nice in the role, has some good scenes, and is overall kind of likable, David Tomlinson was fun, the kids were okay though their accents got to me at times. The special effects are pretty good for the time it was made, garnering an Academy Award. The darker war elements of the movie actually do give it sort of an edge. I actually think this is one of the few kids films where I heard a German army actually speak German for all their scenes. Give them credit for that at least. The animated scenes were really my favorite part. Especially this soccer game with a bunch on animals. It has a lot of good physical humor and the live action/animation mixing is really good here. Fun fact here, the king and secretary bird are voiced by Lennie Weinrib, who you may also know as Inch-High Private Eye.
If you forget the similarities of Mary Poppins, I think this film is actually decent enough for at least one viewing. I'm sure the magic stuff and the animals will keep your kids entertained and the adults can get into the darker war themes, decent special effects, and the two main characters. I certainly did. It's a shame this movie came out when it did. Imagine if it came out seven years after the end of WWII instead of seven years after Mary Poppins. Maybe then it could get more recognition as well as make it a little bit fresher. If you want my opinion as far as recommendations, Mary Poppins is obviously the better movie, but this is still an okay film on its own and does come close at parts. Not a bad film, but not the greatest either. Take it for what it's worth. What you see is what you get.