Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber
Directed By: Robert Stevenson
Written By: Bill Walsh, Don DaGradi
Rating: [Approved] (US) Running Time: 2 hr 19 min
I sit here in front of my laptop today a little crestfallen. Yes, that’s the word, crestfallen. Because I now have to reconcile two versions of the Mary Poppins film. The first version, I saw as a child, and it was awesome and magical. It had a pretty flying nanny and dancing chimney sweeps. Live action characters could jump into paintings and dance with cartoon penguins! Laughing made you fly!
Now I’m older, and horrible things like history, knowledge, facts and a movie called Saving Mr Banks have come along and muddied the waters. This time around I found Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent unbearable, where as a kid I thought all Londoners talked like that! Bless his heart for the sheer enthusiasm and physical ability he brings to the role, but every time he opened his mouth I just wanted to hit the mute button. When I see the penguins now, I immediately wonder if they inspired the flightless quartet in the Madagascar movies. What’s happened to me?
Watching this as a child, I always assumed the movie was about the children and Mary Poppins. Now that I’ve been educated a little by Saving Mr. Banks, it’s clear to me now the whole thing was about the father, and being that that’s the truth, I now wondered why they spent so much time mucking about with cartoon farm animals! They had an important story to tell about a father reconnecting with his children. A man somewhat inspired by the Poppins scribe’s father, who died when she was only 7 years old, and as I watched, I couldn’t help think how much P. L. Travers must have hated this film!
So did any of the magic survive my transition into being a cynical adult? Which I must be now since I’m bashing on Mary Poppins of all things! Thankfully yes. The movie gets off to an awkward start with Van Dyke’s one man band bit, and that Admiral Boom bloke firing his cannon and yelling crazy nonsense at people. But once Julie Andrews shows up, everything gets better. Then she starts singing all those fantastic songs, and all becomes right with the world again. What a beautiful voice, and it reminded me I really need to watch The Sound of Music again. The kids are actually quite adorable, and when the film finally gets around to focusing on Mr Banks, it gets quite moving. Thanks in no small measure to a great performance from David Tomlinson.
It’s interesting, because I wonder how much more I would have enjoyed this if I hadn’t seen Saving Mr Banks in 2013. There’s still that old Disney magic, but I’m now wishing I had re-watched Poppins first, and then saw Saving Mr Banks.
The visual effects have held up really well over the years, and the 50th anniversary edition transfer to blu-ray has been really well done. If a theater near you were showing this movie, that would be the best way to experience this film. At home, the HD version is recommended. Watching this on anything smaller than your TV would be criminal!
Julie Andrews. Gorgeous, cool, and what a beautiful voice!