Cert: U Runtime: 139 mins Director: Robert Stevenson Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dortice and Matthew Garber
In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!
Mary Poppins is a childhood institution, I don’t think I have come across anyone that hasn’t seen this film. The music, the animation and Julie Andrews stick out in your mind when you think of this movie. After my Easter weekend, we all sat down and watched Poppins on the TV and it just flooded the magic of my childhood yet again. So this film is definitely deserves to be my blast from the past this week. We are introduced to the Banks family, headed by the cold and aloof George Banks (David Tomlinson) and the loving but highly distracted Winifred (Glynis Johns). Jane (Karen Dortice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) draft their own advertisement asking for a fun, kind-hearted and caring nanny, but Mr. Banks tears up the paper and throws it in the fireplace. Unnoticed, the remains of the note float up the dark chimney. Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) floats down and enters the residence. As Mr. Banks puzzles, Mary Poppins employs herself and begins work, saying that she will stay for a trial period of one week, before deciding if she will take a permanent position. The children face surprises of their own: Mary possesses a bottomless carpetbag, and makes contents of the children’s nursery come to life and tidy themselves by snapping their fingers. They continue on a magical journey with the “practically perfect in every way” nanny as their stuffy father learns how to love and the family reunites together.
Films we view when we are young do not always hold the same appeal for us as we grow older. As a youngster, I remember being fascinated by many films that I can hardly stand to sit through as an adult.Today I viewed Mary Poppins again for the first time in a number of years and I can say that without question it is every bit as magical as it was back in my younger days when I first saw it.What is there not to like? The story has heart, warmth, memorable characters, wonderful musical numbers, and a heaping dose of magic.Julie Andrew’s Oscar worthy performance as Mary Poppins is perfection. It would have been easy for the character to become either ridiculously silly or a caricature of someone in the mold of a TV. witch or genie. The fact that we are able to view Mary Poppins as first and foremost a caring and loving nanny who just happens to have magical powers is what makes this film works, and can be attributed solely to Ms. Andrews. The fact that Julie Andrews has one of the most magnificent singing voices to land on the big screen didn’t hurt a bit either.David Tomlinson made two other films for the Disney studios, but his role as George Banks is the one for which he will always be remembered. He too seems to strike just the right balance. As the children’s father, we are amused by his fussiness and his wish to achieve a perfectly ordered life, but put off by his ignorance in matters regarding his children. The fact that we are able to see that despite his major character flaws he still loves his children keeps us from developing too much of a dislike for him.Glynis Johns as Winifred Banks is an odd kind of woman, especially for the early part of the twentieth century. Her love for her two children also shines, yet her preoccupation with being a suffragette seems to override that fact. Strangely though, she remains the loyal and obedient wife to her husband.If there is one thing that always seems to be good about Disney films, it’s the fact that Walt was able to find just the right child actors for any film. As Jane and Michael, Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber are exceptional. They appeared together in three films for the Disney studios and if you view this film you will understand why.
There are many special effects sequences throughout Mary Poppins. Some of them may be considered quite cryptic by today standards, but you won’t mind. The animation sequence is done with bright, glowing colors, and the fact that someone in the costume design department matched up the perfect outfits for the live actors in the sequence helps add to the beauty of it all. I’m still in awe of Dick Van Dyke’s dance number with the penguins in that sequence. The chimney sweep sequence which includes a walk among the London rooftops and a marvelously choreographed dance being done by chimney sweeps is remarkable. You’ll laugh along with Uncle Albert, and have a swell tea party on the ceiling. Even if you don’t find the jokes particularly funny you’ll laugh at the absurdity of the situation.The songs by the Sherman Brother are once in a lifetime perfect. I can think of no Disney live action film where the musical numbers are so right from start to finish. Chim-Chim-Cheree won the Oscar for best song but it could just as easily have been to the less catchy numbers Stay Awake or Feed The Birds in my opinion. Both are beautiful, lyrical songs that show the depth and range of Julie Andrew’s voice.It takes a very special film that one can love as a child; yet as an adult appreciate the craftsmanship even more. That puts Mary Poppins in a class by itself.