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MARY POPPINS, 1964
Movie Review

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MARY POPPINS,  MOVIE POSTERMARY POPPINS, 1964
Movie Reviews

Directed by: Robert Stevenson
Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber.
Review by Jayvibha Vaidya


SYNOPSIS:

Mary Poppins, an English nanny, enters the lives of two rambunctious children, Michael and Jane. But Mary isn’t an ordinary nanny. She has magical powers and can create fantastic worlds. As they embark on a series of adventures, Mary is joined by good friend Bert. Together they all begin to bond through simple lessons and a dash of magic, creating a meaningful family unit.

WON 5 OSCARS – Actress, Visual Effects, Editing, Original Song and Musical Score.

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REVIEW:

“I would like to make one thing quite clear. I never explain anything!”

If ever there was a character who can sweep into the lives of children, capturing their attention and love, it would be Mary Poppins. Flying in on a cloud, gliding through the sky with her magical umbrella, she arrives at the doorstep of the Banks house on Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, ready to spread the magic. Robert Stevenson’s Mary Poppins was released in 1964 and became Walt Disney’s crowning glory, garnering multiple Oscar nominations and many wins. Based on the books by British author P.L. Travers, the film follows the arrival of the mysterious Mary Poppins (the exquisite Julie Andrews), who is “practically perfect in every way.” Confidently marching in, refusing to give references and promptly sliding up the banister, Mary Poppins begins to fill the gap of neglectful parents, much to the delight of young Michael (Matthew Garber) and Jane (Karen Dotrice). With her wisdom, sharp insight and no-nonsense sensibility, Mary shines a light on the relationship between parent and child; mending the broken connections that threaten to destroy a family.

The children’s parents are both extremely busy, with Mr. Banks’ job at the bank; running his “home precisely on schedule,” while Mrs. Banks preoccupied with the sister suffragettes and their movement. But when Mary Poppins arrives, her only focus is the children. With her magical carpet bag she pulls out plants and mirrors; snapping her fingers and cleaning an entire room. The children immediately respond to Mary, fascinated by an adult who masterfully commands the world around her. A trip to the park suddenly becomes a chalk painting come to life and meeting a strange old man results in floating to the ceiling from laughter. With Mary’s dear friend Bert (the delightful Dick Van Dyke) joining them, the children discover a magical world where imagination can flourish with an alternate mother and father figure. And when Mr. and Mrs. Banks finally focus on their children, Mary Poppins swiftly packs up her carpet bag and off she flies on the West wind, satisfied with a job well done.

The look of the film is just as magical as Mary herself. Smoking chimneys, the streets of London and lush meadows; the film utilized over 100 glass and matte paintings to represent the London landscape. As well, Disney animators worked extremely hard to create an animated sequence that combines live-action dancing with animated animals that has now become a classic scene. The use of silhouettes and noir-like rainy streets contrasted with the bright colours of the animated world gives the film a depth that most children’s films do not have. The fluid, magical world of children and the static, harsh world of adults can exist simultaneously and Mary Poppins is the bridge between the two.

The songs from the film have all become instant classics. The talented Sherman Brothers have created memorable songs that contain a range of emotions. Mary sings “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” and children everywhere will consider swallowing some bitter cough mixture. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is tongue-twisty fun, complete with snazzy footwork from the skilled Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. And there’s “Feed the Birds,” Walt Disney’s personal favourite, a hauntingly sweet tune about the importance of charity and the tiny everyday things that matter. The choreography is phenomenal, with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke showcasing skill and energy in every movement. Van Dyke, never having formal dance training, masters every move in “Step in Time,” keeping up with the best of the background dancers. The musical number also utilizes space exceptionally well, with the dancers climbing, hanging and sliding across smoky London rooftops.

Julie Andrews gives an amazing performance in her film screen debut. Worthy of her Oscar win, Andrews creates a character that is stern and no-nonsense yet playful and kind, nailing all the subtleties and magic of the mysterious Mary Poppins. Her voice is clear, strong and beautiful; a perfect match for the lovely, well-written songs. Dick Van Dyke is famous for his awful interpretation of a Cockney accent which has now become an affectionate joke. But he makes up for that with his energy, attention and utter joy in every scene. Bert himself is a mysterious character; sometimes a one-man band, a kite seller and chimney sweeper. It is never explained how he and Mary know each other but he shows insight and wisdom before Mary’s arrival as he declares, “I feel what’s to happen all happened before.” Mary and Bert share a quiet chemistry that Andrews and Van Dyke respectfully honor in every scene together. David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns as the children’s parents are never abusive or hateful and are easily forgiven when they finally realize the importance of their family. David Tomlinson is especially wonderful in the scene when he is fired at the bank and runs home in a deliriously enlightened state.

Creating a story from well-written source material, Mary Poppins is a film containing elements that appeal to children and adults alike. Unforgettable characters combined with songs that have become classics result in a magical adventure captained by an extraordinary woman. Mary Poppins not only believes in imagination, she regards it as an everyday matter-of-fact occurrence. She encourages the children to live in a world of magic as well as be practical and smart. The film remains a classic because of its gentle examination of family and its sheer delight with the world of magic. Children know: everything changes when Mary Poppins flies into town.

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