American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Bedknobs and Broomsticks" is the new Disney production from the team that made "Mary Poppins," and it has the same technical skill and professional polish. It doesn't have much of a heart, though, and toward the end you wonder why the "Poppins" team thought kids would like it much. They sit still for part of it; they like the flying bed and the scenes with animated animals, and when the empty suits of armor attack the Nazis there's a kind of Creature Features enjoyment.
But what are Nazis doing in this picture, anyway? And why is it necessary for a character to exclaim, toward the end of the movie: "We have driven the Hun into the sea?" What do kids know from Huns anyway?
The Disney people seem to be drifting farther and farther away from a sympathetic understanding of what kids really enjoy at the movies. Sometimes they try to pass off their sad, dumb movies as "family entertainment" -- so that if the kids don't like it, maybe the older members of the family will. This is a pathetic sort of self-deception on their part, I guess; the Disney organization is worst when it makes "family entertainment" and best when it sticks to pure, simple, charming fantasy.
Take the scene in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" when the characters visit Naboombuland, for example. This is a strange land where the animals rule, and we're given several charming scenes where the human characters meet the animated ones. I've always especially liked this Disney technique; "Song of the South" was a classic. There's magic in it: real movie magic, and not just ambitious special effects. And everybody in the theater just sort of relaxes and enjoys it.