Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins still holds up as great entertainment nearly fifty years after it was made.
Recently rewatching it I was reminded just how good a movie it is. I first saw it when I was just a wee little tyke. It was one of those Disney movies that was always on television and inevitably it became one that I would watch countless times.
Typically what happens with movies that I saw when I was little and revisit them in my ‘adult’ phase of life, they don’t really hold up and I’m left to wonder while watching it “how did I like this back then?”. But Mary Poppins is still a lot of fun to watch now. It really is one of those films for all ages.
Two big things that make it so enjoyable are stars Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.
It was Andrews’ screen debut and from the first moment she’s onscreen she makes Mary Poppins her own. She is terrific as the uptight, prim and proper magical nanny. She looks great, she gives the character a nice saucy edge, but still makes her completely endearing. It’s no wonder she won the Oscar for Best Actress that year for her performance.
Plus, she can carry any tune that the films songwriters came up with. Fortunately, all the songs are great! I can’t imagine any other actress playing Mary Poppins.
Van Dyke is well cast as the easy-going Bert. Yes, his cockney accent is not the best. He’s not exactly Meryl Streep in that department.
When I was little I didn’t recognize the difference between doing a good accent and a bad one. Leaving that aside, Van Dyke has always been an extremely likable presence onscreen and here he’s no different. His gangly marionette movements are a kick to watch. I remember watching this and thinking being a chimney sweep would be the greatest job in the world!
The story of the Banks children trying to gain the love of their distracted father is one of those universal themes that audiences will identify with in any generation. Some of the special effects might not look as clean or polished as we’re used to seeing today, but they are still as effective as ever. Some of the matte paintings look gorgeous and there’s no improving on them anyway.
The biggest draw to the film though are the musical numbers. One after another there are classic songs belted out by the cast, with a lot of laughs along the way.
One random observation, but for some reason when I was rewatching Mary Poppins I started to think of it as a better version of 1980’s Popeye. A musical about this magical character and their adventures. Unfortunately, Popeye wasn’t as a success with its execution as Mary Poppins is. It’s no wonder the film was the big box office champ the year it came out.