Mary Poppins was one of the most successful of a long line of Disney musicals, enjoying enduring and widespread popular acclaim. The film introduced Julie Andrews to the silver screen and offered Dick Van Dyke an opportunity to stretch his television-honed talents in a more demanding medium. Andrews' performance has become iconic, as her prissy and tight-lipped title character ironically liberates the children trapped in a stultifying Edwardian England home. She can sing like a bird, and uses that talent to great advantage in the film's delightful and award-winning tunes. Despite a ridiculous Cockney accent, Van Dyke is full of playfulness and creative spontaneity. The story's attack on the materialistic values and staid lives of turn-of-the-century England is undercut by the Disney-like romanticizing of the lives of the working class, particularly the chimney sweeps. The children give predictably too-cute performances, but the direction by Robert Stevenson keeps things moving briskly enough that we don't get stuck in sticky sweetness. The entire set was constructed indoors and it shows: the "outdoor" scenes are bathed in a dull gray light. Still, there are a number of unforgettable song-and-dance sequences that stand the test of time, and the tale's overall subversiveness is distinctly appealing. Nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Mary Poppins took home five statuettes, including Best Actress for Andrews, an award widely interpreted as a consolation prize for being passed over when Audrey Hepburn was cast in the movie version that same year of My Fair Lady, the role that made Andrews a star on-stage.
by Dan Jardine review