This year Walt Disney's Mary Poppins, the film based on P. L. Travers' books about a magical English nanny, turns 45. To celebrate the occasion Disney has released yet another two-disc anniversary edition (official site) following the 40th anniversary set from five years ago. I might ordinarily be inclined to declare this persistent re-packaging, re-issuing, and re-marketing of the same film excessive. However, Mary Poppins is no ordinary film. It is "practically perfect in every way" and is, in my estimation, worthy of regular recognition, celebration and viewings.
When they were small, our girls watched Mary Poppins repeatedly. Upon hearing we had engaged a chimney sweep to right a precarious chimney, our eldest, then three and a half, was beside herself with delight! All she could think of was Bert (Dick Van Dyke) singing "Step in Time" and "Chim-Chim-Cheree." Never had our chimney sweep received a warmer welcome than the one she gave him. This same daughter, now almost 13 years old and a fan of Clint Eastwood's "spaghetti westerns," still delights in watching Mary Poppins.
Curiously, our son has never watched Mary Poppins until now. For several years he insisted that, despite never having seen it, he didn't like the film. Today I had him at a disadvantage -- sick with stomach flu for three days, he was in a weakened state -- and while unenthusiastic about my choice of sick day movie, he didn't have the energy to argue. Even before the appearance of the lovely and magical Mary Poppins (the inimitable Julie Andrews), he began to perk up. "A Spoonful of Sugar" elicited the first smile I'd seen on his face in days, and by the time Bert and his fellow chimney sweeps were dancing across the rooftops of London my previously supine son rose from the couch, attempting to "kick (his) heels up, step in time!" I tell you, not only is Mary Poppins delightful and supremely entertaining, it appears to possess medicinal value as well!
In addition to the beautiful artwork, terrific cast, delightful choreography and memorable songs with infectious lyrics that are to be expected in any version of the film, the 45th Anniversary Edition also contains a plethora of bonus materials.
Disc One includes a subtitled "sing-along" section particularly well suited to viewers who want to not only sing along, but get the lyrics right. Of the audio commentary and "Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts" options, I prefer the "Pop-Up" selection because it provides interesting trivia tidbits while allowing a relatively undisturbed view of the film.
Disc Two contains an enormous amount of bonus material, including exhaustive coverage of Disney's Broadway stage production of the show. (For what it's worth, our family prefers the film version of "Step in Time" to the stage version included on the disc.) The Backstage Disney section contains plenty of entertaining and worthwhile extras: "Making of Mary Poppins," "Movie Magic," "The Gala World Premiere," "Dick Van Dyke Make-Up Test," and "Publicity." "The Gala World Premiere" section was unexpectedly interesting because it provides a real snapshot, a time capsule of sorts, of Disney, Hollywood, and, to a certain extent, 1964 America -- dig those cars, hairdos and clothes!
The Music and More section contains a lot of time with Richard Sherman who, along with his brother, Robert, is responsible for creating the iconic, award-winning songs for the film. His unwavering enthusiasm for the film and the experience of making it for Walt Disney makes him an engaging, not to mention well informed, tour guide. The final bit is a short film worth checking out called The Cat That Looked at a King. Taken from a vignette in the Mary Poppins series and mostly animated, it features Mary Poppins herself, Dame Julie Andrews, reprising -- to a degree -- the role that earned her an Academy Award and established her career in the movies.
No matter what your age or gender, whether or not you've seen it before, even if you think of yourself as someone who doesn't care for musicals, you ought to consider doing yourself a favor and watching Mary Poppins. Even after 45 years you'll find Mary Poppins, Bert, Jane, Michael, Admiral Boom, and the penguins to be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Editor's addition (he's a fan of Mary Poppins too):
Prolific English film critic Mark Kermode -- well-known as a horror film expert with a PhD in modern English and American horror fiction -- offers up his Top Ten Reasons to love Mary Poppins, from his blog at the BBC's site: