After a number of… difficult movies… it now time to get all the way back into comfort land. Mary Poppins is Disney with capital D and so we know that this will be as cushy and mushy as it is at all possible. This is certainly in stark contrast to the route the List has been leading me lately.
“Mary Poppins” is a fairy tale musical for the entire family, which translates to children with the adults sitting in on the view. It follows the Hollywood template formulae for musicals, meaning anything is possible, with songs and a loosely written story to take you from song to song. Because this is fairy tale on top of musical the logic and causality of things has also been dismissed and aiming it at children means that it all takes a silly slant. This could go horribly wrong, but it stops right at the edge and remains sweet rather than stupid and thank you for that.
In the Banks family the father, Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) is a stiff upper lip British banker while his wife, Mrs. Banks (Glynis Johns) is busy campaigning for women’s right to vote. That leaves their two children, Jane and Michael (Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber) in the hands of a sting of nannies, whom they torment into quitting. Then the wonderful Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) arrives and takes charge of the children.
Mary Poppins is a magic nanny. She can fly and do all sort of magic things and around her everything is fun and nice. She takes the children on adventures, including a trip into a painting together with her friend Bert (Dick van Dyke), and soon the children are in love with her.
The point is of course to make their parents realize they have two lovely children whom they should take care of and spend time with themselves and in the usual convoluted way this is exactly what happens.
As I watched the movie I was thinking that “Mary Poppins” is adults idea of what children should watch rather than what children actually want to watch. That this would certainly be the case today, though maybe children were different in 1964. All that singing and dancing and stories of nannies, is this really what children want to see?
However, as I was watching the last half hour of the movie I was joined by my 8-year-old son, who was very interested in the movie (though it could be a trick to avoid going to bed) and today coming back from school he requested to watch the movie from beginning and he loved it. So, I was wrong, this actually does hit a note with children and the movie serves its purpose.
I think it is merely me who is too far outside the target group (musical AND children’s movie) to fully buy into the movie, but I must admit that it is charming and sweet and of good production value. Technology has made the merging of live action and animation trivial, but for 1964 it works remarkably well, so points for that.
There are a few interesting appearances in the movie: Elsa Lancaster, Bride of Frankenstein, as a nanny and Jane Darwell of Grapes of Wrath in her last role as the Bird Woman.
Normally I am not sure I would recommend this type of movie, but it felt like the right movie at the right time and it does the trick for children, so it ends up with a recommendation from me.