The list saw fit to add two classic musicals to the new edition. I haven’t seen either one, but I know of both. Of the two, the one that intrigued me more was Mary Poppins, which could very well be in the running for the most classic film musical of all time. It’s certainly one of the most influential; the whole genre or trope of the nanny re-educating the naughty children through fun times (magical or not) originated with this film, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit owes more than a fair share of its signature effect to Mary Poppins. Granted, I was merely concerned with how entertaining yet another musical was going to be for me. Well, Mary Poppins the character is no ordinary nanny, and Mary Poppins the film is no ordinary musical.
The great Julie Andrews stars as the title character, who flies down on her magic umbrella to accept the nanny position to two rather troublesome children, Jane and Michael. Through her tutelage and looking after, they, and the whole household, including their slightly airheaded mother, and their indifferent-to-a-startling-degree father, learn to be a little more cheerful, courteous, and fun-loving in their everyday lives, and perhaps a smidgen of respectability as well. Now, the main draw of Mary Poppins, for those who don’t know, isn’t just that it’s a musical, or even that it’s a Disney musical; it’s the mixing of live-action and animated elements on the screen that is the real sell. To that end, the film is a downright spectacle; it spends an inordinate amount of time in these genre-blended sequences, and rightly so, as they are exceedingly well done, and provided much of the entertainment value of the film where other musicals would have merely languished. That said, this is still a musical, and even though the blatant fantasy elements helped alleviate some of the “people randomly breaking out into song” effect, it was still there even in the normal parts of the film, and it was during these otherwise normal parts that we unfortunately come down from the high of the fantasy elements to the now-blasé real world the film takes place in. Still, these brief segments of normality are just that: brief; the film would much rather be all fantasy all the time, but it knows that it must include these normal segments to keep the plot moving forward to the conclusion that it wants, which is still a very satisfying conclusion, but I hope you don’t expect any different from the golden-age of Hollywood musicals.
In the end, Mary Poppins would go on to be nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, more than any other Disney film in history. Not bad, considering the author of the original books, P.L. Travers, didn’t want to sell the rights to them at all. I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog of my history with musicals, and how it takes something really special to get me to stand up and take notice of one. Well, something special just knocked; Mary Poppins was a breath of fresh air in the midst of a rather lengthy run of by-the-books musicals cranked out by the Hollywood system. That being said, I’m not going to be expecting every musical that comes my way to be the next Mary Poppins, but the fact that such an expectation could actually be feasible says a lot about this one.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10