Mary Poppins

1964, starring Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke as Bert and David Tomlinson as Mr. Banks.

Mary Poppins is a meticulously crafted children's film: Solid storyline, solid acting, unique vision, artistically top-notch.

Mary Poppins cares for Jane and Michael with a perfect balance of disciplinarian and motherly love. She doesn't let them drag their feet, but she isn't condescending either. Contrasting to Mr. Banks, who tears up his children's attempt at helping him find a nanny, Mary Poppins tapes this small gesture back together and uses it as her guideline for acquiring the nannying position.
Mary Poppins shows the children a good time and even teaches them a few things along the way, but her main accomplishment is that she restored balance to the Banks household. Mr. Banks is so distracted with his lofty views of "the man" as king of his own household (like the king of Britain) that he forgets to take charge as the father of his household. He tries to carry over his mentality of the banking business over into the way he runs his own family: he bursts into song at one point, singing "A British bank is run with precision, a British home requires nothing less." In all his British manliness, he maintains a detached relationship with his children and therefore fails to take any meaningful part in their upbringing.

Mr. Banks makes a brief attempt at blaming Mary Poppins for his problems, for bringing so much chaos into his well-ordered life. But Bert points out that Poppins can hardly be faulted for singing about "spoonfuls of sugar turning bread and water into tea and cakes." Bert gently reminds Mr. Banks that his children love him and will be grown up and gone before he knows it.

Mary Poppins injects the Banks household with a better outlook on life. It is this new outlook that shakes up Mr. Banks' safe little world. She precipitates events that stun him into reevaluating his roles both as a father as well as a banker. The brilliance of Mary Poppins's plan is that she fills in where Mr. Banks falls short as a father just long enough before she quietly exits the children's lives and allows Mr. Banks to fill in where she left off.

The pivotal point in Mary Poppins is Mr. Banks' breakdown in front of his stoic colleagues at the bank. To get to the bank he endures the longest walk of his lifetime, pondering his failures both as a father and a banker. He enters the ominous meeting room where one of his colleagues confirms his failure by requesting his resignation. At that point one of the men asks him, "Well, do you have anything to say?" To this Mr. Banks starts laughing, hardly understanding what has overcome him. He says, "Well there's only one thing left to say, and that's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious..." He goes on to explain what a wonderful woman Mary Poppins is and even tells them a joke before he dashes out of the room skipping and singing.

Everyone has this in common with Mr. Banks: We need our worlds turned upside down before we will question the direction of our lives. When our priorities are aligned correctly, when we seek "first things first," then all the smaller things will fall into place. Mr. Banks thought that he had lost his job by giving up his old, sterile lifelessness, but he ended up gaining everything in fuller measure than he ever imagined. Within a day his positions as father and banker had been restored more fully than he could have ever imagined.

In Jesus' words, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33)

Mary Poppins demonstrates the fact that Disney's movie-makers tend to accomplish what they set out to do... they either make sell-out sequels designed to rake in a few more millions or they create works of art that will not only make money but also stand the test of time. Mary Poppins falls within the latter category.


mai wen said...

I haven't watched Mary Poppins in forever, your review is inspiring me to rent it and watch it! I wonder what my experience will be watchin g it as an adult since I haven't seen it since I was a very young child.

Verão said...

Mary Poppins is one of my favorites! I even had a record of the soundtrack when i was a kid (it was translucent orange!). I know ALL the songs and can sing it without any mistakes till this day...

Unknown said...

I just watched this with my 3 year old for the first time in decades. Again, I had some of the same thoughts. I thought about blogging about it, but just couldn't seem to put it into words. You write so well and your beliefs are spot on! Supercalifragelisticexpealidocious!

Have I mentioned I am loving your blog!