We get to go to London in 1910 to meet the Banks family. The father, Mr. Banks (played by David Tomlinson), works day and night but seems indifferent to everyone else' needs. Even his children, Michael and Jane, who recently get in trouble for going after their kite causing their nanny to leave them. The next day, Mr. Banks tries to find a replacement nanny and finds it in a young Mary Poppins, played by Julia Andrews. She seems perfect for the job, kind and caring but firm. After the kids have fun cleaning the nursery with the help of Mary Poppins' magic, the three of them head over to the park where they meet the charming, kid-at-heart, Cockney-accented Burt, played by Dick van Dyke. Using some of Mary's magic the four of them head for the English countryside via one of Burt's chalk drawings. That is until it rains. The next day, Poppins and the kids are sidetracked by Bert's uncle Albert (played by Ed Wynn) because he got himself stuck on the ceiling by laughing. After she gets everyone back down on the ground, Poppins suggests to Mr. Banks that he takes the kids to the bank where he works. This however backfires when Banks' boss tries to take Michael's tuppences and causes a riot in the bank. The two escape from the madness to meet up with Burt again, who's now a chimney sweep. And a rather poetic one I may add. They hop on the rooftop with Mary Poppins to have a little party with the other chimney sweeps. That ends when they take it to the Banks house to find an upset Mr. Banks, who has been ordered by his boss to show up at the bank at nine o'clock. He and Burt have a talk about how Mr. Banks' life has gone upside down since Mary Poppins came about. Burt mentions Mary and how wonderful and happy she's made everyone around her, including the kids who their father has largely ignored. He realizes this before he gets fired and as he awaits his doom he surprisingly feels, as the song goes, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. A changed man, Mr. Banks decides to spend the day worth the kids as Mary Poppins realizes this and goes off where the wind takes her, looking for another family that needs her care.
As if I need to go into much detail! Mary Poppins is one of the three Disney movies that I can safely and undoubtedly call "perfect". Everything in this movie is done with expert craftsmanship and is a sheer delight! It's fun. It's funny. The characters, story, special effects, the songs by the Sherman Brothers, the music, the choreography, the acting, the art, everything in it is top notch and among Disney's finest. I am happy to say that this is one of those movies where the Oscar wins and nominations were truely deserved, including a win for Julie Andrews as "Best Actress in a Lead Role"
Maybe I should at least talk about my favorite things about the movie and let's start with the characters. Mary Poppins herself is a wonderful character. She's kind, caring, and sweet but is a firm, almost no-nonsense kind of woman. Here's something that struck me recently: in the beginning she sits on a cloud looking over London, she travels by wind, has magic powers of some kind, and leaves everyone better. Do you think she's a kind of guardian angel? I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into it. Her relationship with Burt, who's another great character, is a really nice one. It's kind of romantic, I suppose, but they never fall for the same cliches as other movies do. They never even hug. In fact, it's a very subtle relationship, which is a nice change of pace for Disney. The others, the kids, Mr. Banks, Uncle Albert, even Mrs. Banks and their neighbors are a lot of fun.
The special effects are wonderful. They have that classic Disney touch to them, you never exactly feel like they're really on a set or that there's wires. No, it feels like its really happening. I have to admit, the technicals for its time period are great. The scenes with the animation (which is part of why I reviewed this today) is done nicely too, particularly with the penguin waiters, animated mostly by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. It's a little bit cleaner than usual this time and is again, enjoyable. Here are all the clips I could find of the animated segments.
I suppose if there's one thing about this movie that some people might consider a problem, it's how long it is. It's about 2 hours long so if long movies bother you, then that's an issue with you. Me? The time flies so fast when I watch it, it feels like it ended too soon. That, I suppose, is a good complaint to have with a movie: you want a little bit more.
As if I didn't get on this enough, Mary Poppins is a superb film. I'd say go check it out, but most of you already have. Then watch it again! I really did enjoy this movie and chances are that more views aren't far in my future. Not just one of my favorite family films but one of my favorite films period.