Friday, 13 December 2013



Release Date: Monday 18 November 2013
Director: Robert Stevenson
Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber
Home Released Reviewed: UK Blu-Ray Release (1 Disc)

Reviewed by Kyle Pedley


Disney’s back catalogue is undoubtedly one of the most continually celebrated, fondly remembered and generally timeless collection of releases that very few studios can compare with - though this is mostly thanks to its stable of animated classics. Far fewer of its live action features of yesteryear continue to be held in the same regard as its swathe of hand-drawn staples such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book and of course, the one that started it all, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. However, one of the most cherished and enduring exceptions is undoubtedly 1964‘s Mary Poppins, proudly arriving in this 50th anniversary celebration which serves as a delightful reminder of a movie that has lost none of its innate charm and remains as surprisingly relevant as ever with its universal themes of parenting, responsibility and imagination.

For those select few sadly unfamiliar with the story, Mary Poppins tells the tale of the Bank’s family, headed by stern, pragmatic Mr Banks (David Tomlinson giving arguably the films most layered and affecting turn), flighty suffragette Mrs Banks (a charmingly dotty Glynis Johns) and their two children Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber). With Mr Banks a typically staunch, British gentleman of little affection and their mother continually devoted to women’s rights, the children are sidelined from their parents and put in the care of nannies who they repeatedly frighten away with misbehaviour. Into this somewhat fragmented family arrives magical nanny Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) who, over the course of a genuinely charming and frequently poignant series of adventures and set pieces, gradually draws the family together as the children are given some heady lessons in responsibility, maturity and empathy towards their father in particular, and Mr Banks himself goes on a somewhat Poppins-induced journey of discovery and realisation.

What remains endearing and impressive about Mary Poppins is how wonderfully balanced all of the above is with that quintessential dosage of Disney flair and magic. On paper, it is a film that should be an unseemly mess - a bricolage of live action and animated vignettes, at one minute a sombre study on a neglectful father, the next a musical explosion on the rooftops of London, or a whimsical stroll through an animated countryside or a musical account on the necessity of investment and frugality. Yet for all of the balls the film manages to juggle into its mix, it never feels meandering or messy, nor anything less than magical. 

Little needs to be said about the now celebrated and instantly recognisable academy award-winning suite of musical numbers and cues - from the tender and delicate ‘Feed the Birds’ (Walt’s personal favourite) the motif of which finds itself woven into the movies score at key moments, to the sprightly exuberance of ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’, ‘I love to laugh’ and ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, there is invention and an overriding sense of joy to be found in practically every song or beat. As well as a terrific story, it is a supremely successful and rounded musical, and though there are times when the musical numbers have little purpose other than to be there and entertain (for instance ‘Stay Awake’ and even ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’) they are infectious, memorable and executed with panache and gusto by all involved. The cast, likewise, lend performances that have become seminal and iconic, and whilst Julie Andrews and David Tomlinson anchor the film with their sublime central turns, Dick Van Dyke is a hearty, familiar presence even with his now infamous accent, and the supporting cast are equally solid, with welcome, entertaining cameos from the likes of Reginald Owen, Ed Wynn and a flustered Elsa Lanchester. 

It’s easy with a heavy dose of nostalgia and childhood fondness to overstate the merit and accomplishment of a film such as Mary Poppins, but there is very little room or need for bias when a film so passionately constructed and inexhaustibly imaginative proves as enjoyable and meaningful as it does fifty years after its original release. Charming, whimsical, poignant and ‘practically perfect in every way’, it remains one of Disney’s finest outputs, animated or otherwise, and will undoubtedly be entertaining many generations to come and undoubtedly reaping similar critical praise another half a century down the line.


There’s a somewhat disappointing paucity of new content for this anniversary release, though thankfully the previous DVD release special features, which in and of themselves were a hearty bunch, are duplicated once again here (much like some of the recent Diamond Editions of their animated classics, such as The Little Mermaid). In regards to reviewing new content, most of the extra content seems tailored around the relevant but separate release of Saving Mr. Banks. There is a new featurette, ‘Becoming Mr. Sherman’ which features Mary Poppins’ musical maestro Richard Sherman and Jason Schwartzman who plays him in Mr. Banks, a neat little extra which features some surprisingly touching and affecting moments. There’s a fairly generic preview of Saving Mr. Banks itself (a film which likewise cannot be recommended enough) and a new ‘Mary-OKE’ experience which is essentially a quintessentially Disney-esque, stylised approach to karaoke from a selection of songs from the movie.

MOVIE RATING: * * * * * (5 out of 5 Stars)
BONUS FEATURES: * * * (3 out of 5 Stars)


This review copy of Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition was provided courtesy of Walt Disney Home Entertainment, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company UK and Ireland, directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their contribution and support.

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