For reasons that I fail to completely recollect, I was not at all impressed by Disney’s classic musical Mary Poppins when I first watched it. It should probably be noted that, unlike many, I was not raised on this film; rather, I had only watched it for the first time about three years ago and had not rewatched it until this month. I can’t speak for the mindset I was in back then (a much more cynical one surely), but with this viewing I have finally seen the light. Mary Poppins is delightful, charming, heartwarming, and some of the most fun I’ve had with movie-watching in quite a while. Time has treated this film very well, as it seems to transcend every generation in its enjoyability factor, and it’s no mystery as to how this movie has remained an American icon in cinema.
To get the obvious out of the way, it’s no lie that Julie Andrews completely owns her role as the titular nanny. Although I love seeing Andrews on the screen in any way, shape, or form anyway, I may have to admit that this is her very best role. She carries herself with such ample amounts of grace and goodness, while also having impeccable comedic timing whenever the scene calls for it. In all honesty, “practically perfect in every way” could serve as a truthful moniker for both the titular figure and Andrews herself. I’ve also a soft spot in my heart for Dick Van Dyke – even though his Cockney accent is so completely out of left field. Heck, there’s something I find inexplicably charming about it anyway. But besides this, the man effortlessly radiates charm from through the screen, making him one of the coolest, most Keaton-esque figures of the whole film.
I’m not so sure if children watching Mary Poppins are meant to find solidarity in the children protagonists, given that their role in the overall narrative is so minimal. It seems instead that viewers – young or old – are meant to completely lose themselves in the various vignettes presented on screen, seemingly a reminiscence of the silent comedy days. There is never a dull moment in this delightful beauty of a film, as every comedy scene and musical number seems to transition and meld together with absolutely no effort and to wondrous results. In fact, the actual plot of the film – detailing a relationship struggle between the two children, their father, and Poppins herself – seems to only play second fiddle to such charming scenes.
Everyone always offers the utmost praise to the animation-live action melding of this film, yet I never truly noticed how brilliant it is until this viewing. The flawless interactions of the human figures with the animated ones are up there with Harry Harryhausen’s stop-motion work in Jason & the Argonauts in unique brilliancy. And once Van Dyke begins to dance with the penguins, sparks immediately ignite from the screen. Seeing such history-making precision being performed before one’s very eyes is something undoubtedly unmatched (although there exists an earlier example of such in Anchors Aweigh). However, this is just one example of the greatness in which this film combines song, dance, and comedy in absolutely genius ways. From the absurdity of characters floating higher the harder they laugh, to the subtlety of Mary being vocally overshadowed by her mirror image, absolutely everything works and works wonderfully.
Although, the songs themselves could practically stand on their own, given how fun and catchy the vast majority of them are. Weeks after this viewing, I still can’t seem to get “A Spoonful of Sugar” out of my head. That’s nothing less to say for “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, and of course “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. These are all so delightfully sing-a-long-able and its no wonder that they’ve become staples in everyday music culture. Likewise, Mary Poppins stands as one of the best to come out of Disney in the entirety of its history. It stands for all of the bright wholesomeness the company is known for, yet offers a little extra more to keep things interesting. This, I believe, is worth all the praise in the world.