Film review: Mary Poppins (1964), directed by Robert Stevenson
There are a number of films “everyone” has seen that I haven’t. Mary Poppins was one of them, until very recently. There were a few bits I had seen here and there, but the whole thing from start to finish? Nope, not at all.
Mary Poppins follows a well to do family in 1910s London. The two Banks children (Matthew Garber and Karen Dotrice) are delinquents, like they normally are in films that require nannies. In fact, their nanny has had enough of them always running off, so she quits. Their father, a serious banker (David Tomlinson) writes a very serious advertisement for The Times, but the children have written an advertisement too.
Because their one is from the heart and they want a kind, rosy-cheeked nanny who will play with them, their father reacts with a “bah, humbug!” and tears it up. Somehow, the torn up letter flies out of the chimney, and when they are going to interview applicants, all of them get blown away (literally) and only one remain: Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews).
Mary Poppins is exactly what the children asked for and exactly what they needed. She’s fun and playful, yet strict and no-nonsense, and she takes them on magical adventures along with the friendly neighbourhood chimney sweep (Dick Van Dyke, before he became Dr Sloane and started solving crimes). A lot of cheerful singing and magic ensues until the family have united to become a “proper” family – none of that strict banking business from Mr Banks or gallivanting away in Suffragette rallies from Mrs Banks (Glynis Johns) when you have children to play with …
Dick Van Dyke has the most hilarious accent I’ve ever heard. It’s meant to be Cockney, but it veers wildly from Australian to American and British. (He should take elocution lessons from Danny Dyer – just a thought.) As my associations with the man in question begin and end with Diagnosis: Murder (okay, yes, I did see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang once, but I was like ten at the time), it’s great to see him do something so completely different, and how well he does it! He’s funny and he’s charming – dreamy, even. Who’d a-thought it, eh? Julie Andrews is of course forever associated with The Sound of Music, so her singing and looking after children is no surprise. She’s a wonderful actress and a great singer.
It’s a harmless film, that’s all I can really say. It’s cute, it’s cheerful, it’s vintage Disney, and it makes you feel terribly good. Considering how much Hollywood enjoys doing re-makes, I wonder how come there hasn’t been a Mary Poppins re-make yet. Today’s CGI would make those penguins look historical, even though I have to say that the special effects in this film have aged surprisingly well. Not sure who would play the title characters, though – any suggestions?
4 out of 5 outdated values.