Mary Poppins: I never explain anything.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
With Mary Poppins Returns upcoming I decided it was time to look back on the original Mary Poppins movie, which came out 54 years prior. Disney’s live-action films don’t often have the best reputation but when they get it right they get it right. This film is no exception to that rule. If anything it completely invalidates it. It has a great story, atmosphere, characters, and magical vibe.
The story takes place in 1910 London. George Banks (David Tomlinson) has two children Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) who are quite unruly due to their father always at work and their mother Winifred (Glynis Johns) out fighting for women’s rights. George takes it upon himself to hire a strict and no-nonsense nanny to look after them tearing up Michael and Jane’s attempt to put an ad for a kinder and sweeter one throwing the scraps into the fireplace. However, the scraps magically float up out into the air where Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews)finds and restores them. She shows up at the Banks’ house and introduces herself as the new nanny utilizing her mysterious and unique lifestyle to improve the family’s dynamic.
When the movie goes into its energetic and magical moments they build higher and higher and end on the perfect note. And when the movie has to calm down it lets you breathe in the weight of a moment such as towards the end when Mr. Banks is walking down a dark road to his job knowing full well he is about to be fired. Moments like these sink in perfectly with little to no dialogue.
This was Julie Andrews’ film debut and her performance is amazing. While she is very kind and sweet she’s also very strict and stern. She introduces a great deal of magic and whimsy but she’s also very mysterious. Even during the magical and whimsical moments, she doesn’t often smile which brings about a great sense of mystery to her. When the magical stuff happens she denies it and it gives a sense of mystery to both the audience and the kids. She does a brilliant job at playing characters like George at their own game while others are completely oblivious to it. While Andrews can pull of the charming moments well she pulls off the serious moments even better.
Dick Van Dyke as Mary Poppins’ friend Bert uses a really fake Cockney accent. However with that aside his performance is also great. He puts in a great deal of energy into this part, particularly with the dance sequences. Every time he’s on screen he has a different job and you sense a great deal of happiness with this character given how content he is with life at every turn.
Tomlinson as Mr.Banks is a spot on. While he is a complete stick in the mud and often doesn’t understand magic or whimsy you do definitely believe in him when he does want to be better for his kids. When he goes to his job knowing he is about to be fired you can’t help but feel for him given he’s built most of his life on his job.
The songs in this movie are perfect. Each one plays perfectly to the emotions the movie is trying to convey and they are highly energized and very well choreographed.
If there is one nitpick about the movie is that the animated sequences when the children are having fun can go too long to the point that the movie starts to lose focus. However, it always comes back to and balances it out with some emotional moments as well like the Feed the Birds song. And even then these animated sequences are drawn incredibly well and it feels like you’re right there in the moment.
Mary Poppins has the perfect appeal for kids and adults alike. Kids can appreciate the whimsical moments and the energy. Adults can appreciate that as well in addition to the serious moments. And no matter how old one may get it will always take you back to the thought of being a little kid. And no matter how good the sequel may turn out to be you can never forget where it came from. Take a look and enjoy flying a kite up to the highest height.