In most cases, musicals captivate me; their tunes and energy amplify its narrative and themes, often times leaving me with a more absorbing experience, one that simplicity and tradition could not provide. There are those that are not so stellar, prime examples being Cabaret, An American in Paris, and Funny Face; but given the admiration that many have given to Mary Poppins over the years, it cannot be helped but to come into it with exceeding expectations. As you might have guessed, I didn’t think so strongly towards this film.
Two children from a busy and formal father, who works at a prestigious bank at the city, and a mother who is a strong advocate for the women’s protest for equal rights in voting, have built a reputations for themselves as mischievous and rebellious; with six nannies already handed in their resignation within a span of four months. In a search of a new nanny, the children wrote a personal advertisement that their father tore up and threw at the unlit fireplace; a mystical gust of wind blows this torn advertisement up in the air where a woman who lives among the clouds finds it and takes on the offer. She arrives and within minutes has become the guardian of the two children.
As most of you already know, this magical nanny’s name is Mary Poppins; she carries a firm but understanding personality, who knows exactly the issues that lies within the roots of their emotions and actions, and through wild magic and subtle hinting, she provides the children and their parents the medicine they sorely need. The father believes that the household should uphold organisation and logic, already foreseeing the necessities of his children’s future. The children however feel restricted, lacking affection and attention that a father and even mother should provide, though the sights are set on the paternal figure as he holds the largest influence towards their futures.
It’s simple and emotional premise should be perfect for the musical genre, as it allows the whole experience to be further accessible and amplify the ideas that it is attempting to convey. Sadly, the musical concept felt too indulgent, at times seemingly lost to the point of its narrative; there are multiple moments, particularly the 30 minute sequence within the painting and as iconic as the scene may be, comes off as distracted and dragged, aiming to impress its viewers with its special effects; which were certainly impressive at the time, but instead it comes off as a wasted potential of being timeless through its indirect approach. The entire feature runs for about 2 hours and 19 minutes, which is a far too lengthy runtime for a premise that isn’t necessarily complex. I sat their waiting for the film to reach its pivotal point for its plot and characters, but the sequence on the rooftops dragged on with far too long.
Although I do have to hand it to Disney and its crew for creating a feature that is energetic, somehow maintaining your attention, especially through its lengthy musical elements, despite overall it is indulgent and futile. I was staring intently at luscious backdrop of Bert’s (Dick van Dyke) painting, a close and dear friend of Poppins. The numbers demand so much, physically, from its cast that not an ounce of cynicism could be found in their wild movements and silly lyrics. It is a testament of how much Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins could commit to the role and the atmosphere the film creates, somehow finding sincerity underneath its mayhem and chaos, like as if all of it was according to a plan.
The entire film remains faithful to the brand of Disney, with conclusions that feel all too neat, and stories unwilling to reach the darker aspects of its characters, a trait more prominent in their live-action products. This is a story that should pose as a challenge for its viewers, somehow allowing some sort of evolution within us that would embrace the metaphor of its titular character. Disney is a company that has built its foundations with its animated features, and with their theatrical releases, they rarely disappoint and this is all due to the passion that the company provides for them, something that cannot be truly felt, despite their attempts, in their live-action features.
Mary Poppins isn’t the remarkable musical masterpiece that many of its viewers and its company have proclaimed it to be; it may charm the younger minds with its lyricism and uplifting choreography, but for those who have entered into Cherry Tree Lane far too late into their lives, this comes off as an underwhelming and abstracted feature that does not live up to its fame.