Mary Poppins (1964)

Mary Poppins (1964)

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"Don't tell anyone, but I think Mary Poppins has soiled herself."
“Don’t tell anyone, but I think Mary Poppins has soiled herself.”

Twitter Plot Summary: Mary Poppins drops in from her cloud to teach a couple of kids (and their parents) some chuffing manners.

Genre: Comedy/Family/Fantasy/Musical

Director: Robert Stevenson

Key Cast: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Ed Wynn.

Five Point Summary:

1. Even after all this time… what’s with Dick Van Dyke’s accent?
2. That bottomless bag – every woman should have one.
3. Hah, an Irish fox.
4.  I laugh a lot (no, seriously, I do), and I’ve never floated up in the air. Lies I tell you!
5. Chimney sweeps! Fahsans of em!

I’ve always had a problem with child actors. With very few exceptions every time children appear in films I want to punch them in the face. Even when they’re not actually that bad, as turns out here.  I’m not sure what spawns these violent thoughts in me, but they exist all the same. Thankfully I’ve no desire to actually act this out, as I don’t really wish to hit children in real life, and I would also get into a bit of trouble for it. I’m not a violent man, honest.

Adapted from the books by PL Travers, Mary Poppins sees a pair of unhappy children write a letter asking for a new nanny to look after them, one who isn’t as mean or strict as the ones they’ve had previously. As it happens,  and to give you some context, their mother is obsessed with the suffragette movement and their father is obsessed with his work at the bank, so they’re essentially forgotten about in their own home. After Mr Banks tears up the letter and throws it into the fireplace, the pieces float up the chimney and Mary Poppins decides to step in and take the job. She proceeds to astound the children with a bottomless bag which has, for me at least, passed into the popular lexicon in reference to the seemingly bottomless handbags that many women tend to have use of these days, except Mary Poppins can actually find the thing she’s looking for. Poppins sets about teaching the children and their parents about communicating with each other and all that jazz across a number of conveniently placed situations with accompanying musical numbers.

"See that slug there? He taught me how to speak with a proper cockernee accent. True story."
“See that slug there? He taught me how to speak with a proper cockernee accent. True story.”

The songs are excellent and timeless. There’s something gleeful about meandering between them, each song having its own distinct sound and making its own mark on the film. Unlike many musical features, they don’t dominate proceedings, there’s plenty of your standard dialogue between them. Not only does the film have an exceptional number of fun songs, it also combines animation and live action in a way that, in this reviewer’s eyes, wouldn’t be beaten until Who Framed Roger Rabbit shuffled in through the door. Disney went on to repeat and master the formula in other films, Bedknobs and Broomsticks in particular (also starring David Tomlinson as it happens).

I won’t dwell on Dick Van Dyke’s terrible cockney accent (and on that subject, check this website out – http://modvda.blogspot.co.uk), suffice to say we all know it’s bad and it’s not clear what accent he’s actually doing. I am happy to ignore this in light of how fantastic the rest of the movie is. Even so, whilst not annoying folks it has become a meme in itself and has been referenced in popular culture multiple times in the ensuing years. Whilst the accent isn’t anywhere near perfect, at the very least Dick Van Dyke is excellent as Bert and thoroughly entertaining to boot. Equally, Julie Andrews is perfect as Mary Poppins, just the right side of strict and of course has a fantastic singing voice.

It does get a little flabby towards the end, in particular when Mary Poppins takes a day off and the kids go with their Dad to the bank. Yes, it does set up the end of the film, tying in nicely to the opening scenes, and yes it does give us another musical number with some mucky chimney sweeps, but in all honesty this could have been set up earlier in the story and subsequently trimmed for a much leaner and child friendly running time. In any case, Mary Poppins remains a classic of cinema, perfect for young and old alike. Ideal for a Sunday afternoon or if, like me, you really have nothing better to do with your time than watch a lot of films. There are a lot of clunkers out there, Mary Poppins isn’t one of them.

Favourite scene: Where Mary, Bert and the children jump into one of Bert’s chalk drawings and have a mini adventure in an animated world. The best part is, it’s not even odd to see live action against an animated background.

Quote: “As I expected. “Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.””

Silly Moment: Any time Dick Van Dyke speaks. That’s your lot.

Score: 4.5/5

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