Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Mary Poppins: The 45th Anniversary Edition (DVD)

Here's a review of Mary Poppins: The 45th Anniversary Edition DVD by my associate, Amica Paige...

If not for anything else—because this film is one of those things to love or hate, like the seemingly strained city life, or the tedium of the country, depending on one's impression; like "rare" or "well-done", with the latter being synonymous to being "overcooked" for the ones who prefer the former; or in music, like pop or rock; there's no "medium-rare" or middle ground for an ambivalent audience, which is highly unlikely to exist anyway, because again, you'd either watch this or you won't, or you've seen it before, enjoyed it, and would gladly see it again, or would rather learn how to knit, you get the point—you'd watch this purely for entertainment. Why? Well, because it's simply great entertainment. And Walt Disney and great entertainment are one and the same; when you talk of one, you're talking of the other. And this 45th Anniversary Special Edition of Disney's Mary Poppins is an absolute, all-time, family amusement. One can hardly criticize this seemingly sappy musical as too farfetched. It is farfetched, which makes for a fantastic entertainment. And yet, even in all its whimsy, lending an escape from reality—and it was so for the writer of Mary Poppins, Pamela Traverse, who had created this literary tapestry, her childhood and aspects of her adult life knitted and romanticized for a children's book (though the Mary Poppins in the book could hardly be considered as charming as she was detached, though enigmatic, and certainly not a romantic at that), and who had consistently disapproved of Disney's updated version of her nanny, according to Valerie Lawson's account of the continually embittered and equally enigmatic former creator of the original Mary Poppins, in Lawson's book, Mary Poppins, She Wrote, which I'll cover next time—the movie still strongly portrays the bleak reality of real life situations, such as that of a misguided father, Mr. George Banks (David Tomlinson), who, in his rigid philosophy, gets consumed by his life's work for his family's sustenance, but ends up neglecting his consenting wife, Winifred (Glynis Johns), and dissenting children, Michael and Jane (Matthew Garber and Karen Dotrice) instead. In flies the "practically perfect" nanny, Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), to the rescue, with her magical umbrella and carpet bag, with her wit, tenacity, and charm, and also with the help of a good-old friend Bert (Dick Van Dyke), the quirky and cheerful chimney-sweep, who's also adept at magic tricks, art, singing, dancing, and life in general, as he meets it everyday with inexhaustible cheer. While the children get whisked away to some awesome adventures, the Banks learn valuable lessons from their stalwart nanny, the humble and always merry Bert, the lowly Bird Lady (Jane Darwell) whom the birds, obviously more agreeable than Hitchcock's vicious birds (thank god), flock around, and the buoyant Uncle Albert (Ed Winn), who becomes as light as a bubble and soars, literally, everytime he laughs.

This remastered fanfare of a film boasts of a magical story seasoned with distinctive characters; fantastic scenes, with Disney's brilliant animation and Bob Crowley's exceptional design concepts; outstanding musical scores by the Sherman Brothers; and excellent choreography, especially in the "Step-in-Time" sequence with the chimney sweeps. (If chimney sweeps danced that well, they'd be entertainers in real life; then again, there actually might already be chimney sweeps who really are excellent dancers.) The special 2-Discs set also features Backstage Disney, which includes a peek at Disney on Broadway, Music sets with a downloadable MP3 for "Step In Time", Rare Behind-The-Scenes Footage, and Fun Facts; an Animated Short hosted by Julie Andrews; a Reunion with Andrews, Van Dyke, and Sherman; and the 1964 Premier of Mary Poppins, among a few other treats, including an interview with the author, Valerie Lawson. This dynamically animated edition is surely much more than just a dose or a "spoonful of sugar". It's "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", with glimpses of real life circumstances. And quite a lot of sugar. But it's still good. It's simply great entertainment.

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