Who wouldn’t want to have a cup of tea with Julie fucking Andrews?
With today’s release of the long-anticipated sequel, Mary Poppins Returns (2018), you had to know that this Wayback Wednesday was coming. Don’t freak out on me, but this was actually my very first time watching Mary Poppins (1964). Blasphemy I know, but growing up my house was filled with other movie musicals like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and Grease (1978). What can I say? Flying cars and 50s greasers ruled my childhood. However, now that I have been properly introduced to Ms. Poppins, I’ve gladly welcomed talking umbrellas and merry-go-round races into my life.
Based on the series of children’s books by P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins tells the story of the titular magical nanny who arrives at the home of the Banks children, Jane and Michael, to bring their family closer together through her signature blend of magic, music, and mirth. Since its original release, Mary Poppins has been hailed as one of Disney’s most legendary movies, Julie Andrews’ most iconic role, and a beloved classic for children all over the world.
I found it surprisingly difficult to write this review because the movie was so, so, so…practically perfect in every way. I hate myself for using that line but come on, it was right there. Seriously though, from set design, to direction, to choreography, the movie is without flaw. Well, okay, one flaw. At just under two and a half hours, the runtime is insanely long. What’s funny is that it isn’t the story itself that adds to the lengthy runtime. In fact, the story of Mary Poppins and the Banks family is concise and evenly-paced. No, it’s those musical numbers, as wonderful as they are, that slow things down. Like I said, they’re wonderful, but damn, it’s almost like this movie didn’t have an editor. The whole movie really is a dance extravaganza. I’m pretty sure the musical scene inside the chalk drawing is like a solid 25 minutes.
What helps sell Mary Poppins, is that it’s a movie musical that feels like a real, expensive, stage show. There were moments where I thought I was watching a recording of a Broadway show. Whether it’s the authentic staging, the gorgeously painted backdrops, or the sets that are obviously sets, the movie sells the fantasy with the style and imagination that only theatrical productions are capable of.I mean really, this is a landmark in movie musicals. A majority of the thanks has to go to the movie’s leads, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Let’s talk about Van Dyke first because as some dead guy once said, “always save the best for last.”
So, Dick Van Dyke. He’s a big deal in my house. Obviously because of the aforementioned multiple viewings of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but also because my family and I are enormous fans of The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961 – 1966). Weird that I hadn’t seen one of Van Dyke’s most famous roles until this week, huh? To me, Dick Van Dyke was to the 60s what Jim Carrey was to the 90s. He appeared in numerous roles during that decade, was everybody’s favourite, and was able to move his body in amazing ways for the sake of his performance. Like, are we sure Dick Van Dyke’s limbs aren’t made of rubber? Oh my God, when he first appeared onscreen, I went, “fuck yes to Dick Van Dyke doing the most with his one-man band!” Then he opened his mouth and I went, “fuck no to Dick Van Dyke and his painfully atrocious cockney accent!” You guys, this accent is the most perplexing thing I’ve ever heard in a movie. First of all, it’s not even cockney. It’s nonsense. Which is surprising because cockney is the easiest English accent to fake your way through. Honestly, it’s kind of Australian but mostly gibberish. I’m actually kind of thankful it inconsistently fades in and out.
Accent aside, Van Dyke is everything you’d want as Bert the chimney-sweep. His boisterous charisma and talent are on full display as he endearingly dances, falls, and sweeps his way into the audience’s hearts. You know how charming and talented you have to be to keep up with Julie Andrews? Pretty damn charming and talented. JULIE. ANDREWS. Wow. There are no words. I love Emily Blunt and think she’ll be absolutely fine taking on the role in the sequel, but Julie Andrews IS Mary Poppins. Her grace and infectious merriment are what drive the movie and make Mary Poppins a timeless classic. I mean, how could you not fall in love with Andrews’ Mary Poppins? She’s the magical entity we all wish would descend from the clouds and add a spoonful of sugar to our dreary lives. Speaking of, I went full-on, “yesss bitch” when the movie started and I saw her sitting on that cloud fixing her hair. I couldn’t tell you why. I guess that’s just the power of Julie Andrews.
The songwriters (the legendary Sherman Brothers) and the screenwriter knew what they were doing because they not only gave Mary the most memorable songs, but the best lines as well. “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” are synonymous with Mary Poppins, and only someone with Julie Andrews’ presence and delivery could make sure that both numbers hit the whimsical and playful notes they’re meant to. Oh my God, when she flawlessly snaps back at Michael, “please close your mouth Michael, we are not a codfish,” I was LIVING. She carries that umbrella not only for flying, but for blocking all that shade. For people who have seen this movie a thousand times, have you ever noticed that as lovely as she is, Mary is slightly full of herself? I mean, rightfully so, but it was still surprising to me. I loved it though. I just about died during the animation scene where Bert and the penguins are basically just singing about how Mary is the shit, and she’s just sitting there smiling like, “yeah, you are correct. I am the shit.”
It was an inspired decision to have the movie not be bogged down by trying to explain Mary’s powers or have the children question any of the fantastical things she does. It adds to the fun and childlike wonder of the movie. Like, I genuinely had the biggest grin on my face the whole time I was watching it. I realize it’s extremely cliché to say this, but watching Mary Poppins really made me feel like a little kid again. This movie is pure, joyful magic and if it’s been a while since your last viewing, it’s definitely time to pull out your copy and revisit Cherry Tree Lane.
Are you a fan of Mary Poppins? Are you going to see Mary Poppins Returns?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!