Starring-Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke
Scott’s Review #965
Reviewed December 9, 2019
Mary Poppins (1964) is a lovely Walt Disney production that shines with zest and an ample supply of good, cheery tunes. A family affair, it will hardly disappoint, with sing-alongs and enchanting stories for miles. It’s tough to knock a film that has it all, but it does border on sickeningly sweet wholesomeness at times with too much schmaltz mixed in. This can easily be forgiven because of the robust music, dazzling visual effects, and perfect casting, making the film enjoyable entertainment for all to enjoy.
The Banks family resides in London, England, the foursome consisting of George and Winifred Banks, along with children Jane and Michael. They live a comfortable and happy upper-middle-class existence. When their nanny quits after the children run away to chase a kite, the panicked George requests a stern, no-nonsense nanny, while the children (now returned home) desire a kind, sweet one. Through the marvel of magic, a young nanny (Julie Andrews) descends from the sky using her umbrella. Mary Poppins teaches the children to enjoy chores through tunes with the help of a kindly chimney sweep, Bert (Dick Van Dyke).
Mary Poppins cheerily take the children on several adventures teaching them valuable lessons along the way. The drama created involves light situations such as the irritable George threatening to fire the nanny because she is too cheerful, or a mini-scandal at the bank where George works. These side stories are trivial and non-threatening since the film is really about the antics of the magically odd nanny and her relationship with the children.
The film is unique in that it combines live-action with animation so that the result feels magical and inventive. This is most evident during sequences that feature animals, especially the superb scene where Mary Poppins transports Bert, Jane, and Michael into a picture where they ride a carousel and stroll the day away. The appearance of horses and a fox makes the scene both beautifully crafted and filled with joy.
The casting could be no different and is flawless across the board. Standouts are Andrews and Van Dyke, the former appearing in her very first film role. Not to be usurped by her most iconic role as Maria in the following year’s brilliant The Sound of Music (1965), Andrews possesses a benevolent and delightful spirit which works perfectly in the role, to say nothing of her powerful voice. Van Dyke as the romantic interest is equally well-cast, and together the chemistry is easy and apparent.
Mary Poppins was met with critical acclaim when it was released, during a time when Disney ruled the roost and musicals were a dime a dozen. It received a total of 13 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture – a record for any film released by Walt Disney Studios – and won five: Best Actress for Andrews, Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. This was quite a feat as the film was up against My Fair Lady (1964), a similar film, which won the biggest prize of the year.
Rated G and box-office success, Mary Poppins (1964) is a legendary Walt Disney film that uses creative techniques and musical numbers to develop a fine finished product. The song standouts are “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, as each offers candy for the ears and immeasurable fun. The classic songs and the cohesive sentimentality make this one easy to enjoy with repeated viewings.
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Robert Stevenson, Best Actress-Julie Andrews (won), Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Song-“Chim Chim Cher-ee” (won), Best Music Score-Substantially Original (won), Best Scoring of Music-Adaptation or Treatment, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Color, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Costume Design, Color, Best Film Editing (won), Best Special Visual Effects (won)