The height of Disney-esque whimsy, Mary Poppins is one of the most beloved family musicals of all time and lies within my VC’s top 20 films. Though she loves it a tad more than I, there’s no denying the fanciful joy of this adaptation of P. L. Travers’ literary nanny.
Julie Andrews won a Best Actress Oscar for her no-nonsense charm as Mary Poppins herself, and Dick Van Dyke matches her with his usual vigorous charisma, despite his affected British accent. The entire cast is wonderful, though if I had to find fault, I’d say that Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber as Jane and Michael Banks don’t have much character aside from generic cuteness, though I suppose that allows for ease in audiences placing themselves in their shoes. (Trivia note: Most of those nannies gathered at the Banks home before Mary Poppins arrives were actually male stuntmen. No wonder they were ugly.)
The film’s greatest strength is its music, provided by the unrivalled Sherman Brothers, whose jolly tunes and clever lyrics are instant classics. Not every one is hummable, but “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” and the Oscar-winning “Chim Chim Cheree” continue to reside in the mind of countless viewers. “I Love to Laugh” and Poppins’ bipolar Uncle Albert always earn a smile from my family, though my favorites would have to be “Jolly Holiday” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” thanks to the expertly composited animation sequences that Travers herself so despised. “Step in Time” is one of the film’s many high points too, though more due to the rigorous choreography than the comparatively simple lyrics. Despite the film’s overall joyous appeal, “Feed the Birds” (with or without the words) somehow brings tears to my VC’s eyes every time.
After having seen Saving Mr. Banks, there were certain scenes on this latest viewing that I couldn’t help but recall that making-of drama, such as Mr. Banks’s lament over Mary Poppins’ frustrating influence, which supposedly mirrored the annoyance caused by Travers and her nitpicking. The 2013 film also deepened the sorrows of Mr. Banks, which I never fully understood as a kid. While Saving Mr. Banks surpasses Mary Poppins as far as dramatic narrative, there’s no replacing the sheer fun and inventiveness of the original.
Mary Poppins is not only Uncle Walt’s best live action film, but arguably his best during his lifetime. Possessing a childish delightfulness that nullifies criticism, it’s a film of true magic (and not just the cleverly creative effects), a magic every child should experience.
Best line: (Mary Poppins, reading her self-descriptive tape measure) “As I expected. ‘Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.’”
VC’s best line: (Bert) “Speakin’ o’ names, I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.” (Uncle Albert) “What’s the name of his other leg?”Rank: 57 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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