Parents, you have a responsibility. Your kids should not know Julie Andrews just from the two Princess Diaries movies. Luckily, you have an opportunity since Mary Poppins, the movie that landed Andrews an Oscar and made her a star 40 years ago, has just been released on DVD for its 40th anniversary.
Andrews is just perfect in the title role, a mystical nanny who literally falls from the London sky and into the lives of two lonely children in 1910. The kids desperately need some kind of attention. Their father (David Tomlinson) is a workaholic, brown-nosing banker, who treats his kids as two obstacles in keeping an orderly home. Mom (Glynis Johns) is no better, a dingbat who prefers supporting social causes to spending time with her kids. Funny how little things have changed, huh?
For little Jane and Michael — whose rhyming advertisement for a perfect nanny magically reaches Mary — this new hire is a savior. She mixes learning with fun and she has no problem bursting into song and dance at a moment’s notice. Plus, she has a friend with similar talents, Bert the chimney sweep (Dick Van Dyke, who’s every bit as good as Andrews is). Of course, Mary’s unorthodox methods irritate George to no end. Through a little mental trickery, she’s able to stay on the job and teach George a lesson or two about being a better father.
Mary Poppins certainly isn’t timeless because of its periodic animation, which the crew at Pixar could probably put together on a lunch break. Simply put, every kid wants an adult who is their ally, who upon their arrival offers a world of magic and fun. Who is Mary Poppins, if not the perfect embodiment of that idea? She can make a room clean itself, enable snow globes to tell touching narratives, and make chalk drawings come to life. Kids will be floored by the magical possibilities. The movie’s playful goofiness, courtesy of Van Dyke, Ed Wynn, and bouncy songs (which come one right after the other) will keep everyone glued to the set.
Lessons are offered in Mary Poppins, but not in a way that’ll have kids or adults rolling their eyes. In fact, the movie’s educational stances are meant more for parents — don’t act so wrapped up in the material world, pay attention to your kids — but in an amusing way that agrees with the movie’s joyful tone. The message is clear: Everyone should take care of their jobs and responsibilities, but have fun as well.
Those are lessons worth learning, especially if the teacher has a perfect singing voice and the demeanor of the world’s coolest aunt. And no, I’m not talking about Anne Hathaway.
DVD extras on this 40th anniversary include reunion interviews, a short animated film hosted by Andrews, a deleted song from the film, behind-the-scenes footage, a trivia track, and games for the kids.
The 45th Anniversary DVD offers about the same stuff, plus a backstage look at the new Mary Poppins Broadway show.