I can easily say that my most awaited film for this year is “Saving Mr. Banks”. Releasing in December, the film is about the story of how the Disney film, “Mary Poppins” was made. Well, it’s more about how Walt Disney took years to convince the author, P.L. Travers, to sell him the rights to her book. And as the stories have said, P.L. Travers wasn’t the biggest fan of what Walt did with her story!
In other words, “Saving Mr. Banks” is about Disney history which is like the Disney fanatic’s dream come true! Firstly, we get to see Walt Disney as a character in a film!
And secondly, this movie looks like it’ll let us venture into P.L. Travers’ past and see what exactly was her inspiration in writing the book. Maybe this can help us understand why Ms. Travers felt so disgusted by Walt Disney’s film.
So while we wait for that film to come out, why not take a look at the film, “Mary Poppins” itself? So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here’s everybody’s cherished “Mary Poppins”!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
So the film opens up with the opening credits which list a huge slew of people who’ve worked on/contributed to this film.
We then meet our first character, Bert, played by Dick Van Dyke using what many consider to be the worst Cockney accent ever put to film!
Well, I personally don’t blame Dick Van Dyke for that, after all, he is an American who only got the job because he was popular at the time and said that how there should be more family entertainment. It could’ve been worse: Walt Disney could have gotten Andy Griffith to play Bert! He probably wouldn’t have even attempted an English accent!
Bert is pretty much a jack-of-all-trades assuming various jobs throughout the movie as the situation deems fit for him. On this particular occasion, he’s a one-man band entertaining the people with extemporaneous lyrical compositions and musical pieces.
Once he’s finished his performance, Bert realizes that we (the audience) are watching him and breaks the fourth wall. He then
pretends to assume realizes that we’re asking for #17 Cherry Tree Lane and he takes us down the road to the house in question.
The house is owned by the protagonists of this film: the Banks family, consisting of two children, Jane and Michael,
a suffragette mother, Mrs. Banks, played by Glynis Johns,
and a strict no-nonsense father, Mr. Banks, played by the lovable and the I-wish-I-knew-more-about-him actor, David Tomlinson.
Oh, we also see the children’s nanny, played by Elsa Lanchester. Well, she’s actually on her way to being the “ex-nanny”. You see, Jane and Michael have run away from her for what seems to be the nth time, and she for one, has had her fill of it, so she tells Mrs. Banks that she’s quitting. Mrs. Banks is upset of course (well first she sings a song entitled, “Sister Suffragette”, which I feel is like every feminist’s theme song),
and THEN she’s upset at Elsa Lanchester’s quitting.
Not only is she upset, but once Mr. Banks comes home, he too becomes upset. Well actually, first he sings a song entitled “The Life I Lead”, a catchy little tune detailing his precisely scheduled life, and THEN he gets upset at the children’s disappearance and Elsa Lanchester’s quitting. There seems to be a pattern here of people singing songs before realizing the gravity of the situation!
Anyway, a constable soon arrives at the house with Jane and Michael. Apparently, they got lost from Elsa Lanchester whilst chasing a kite that was slipping out of their grasp due to some strong winds.
Mr. Banks sends the constable home, sends the kids to their room, and then later chats with his wife about their nanny problem. Apparently, Elsa Lanchester was the sixth nanny that Mrs. Banks had employed in the last four months! Wow, that’s, as they say, an EPIC fail! Well, I guess it’s not really her fault.
So, Mr. Banks decides that he’ll take it upon himself to hire the next nanny. He does this by composing a musical advertisement to send to “The Times” for inclusion in their next paper. But the kids come downstairs and apologize for getting lost from Elsa Lanchester and decide to help by composing their OWN musical advertisement entitled, “The Perfect Nanny”.
This song is extremely sweet and has such a laid-back melody to it that it becomes instantly hummable and memorable. I wish somebody famous would do a rendition of this song.
Anyway, Mr. Banks, infuriated with the requirements that the kids put forth in their advertisement (Play games, sing songs, bring sweets, etc.), sends the kids back upstairs again, tears up the ad, and throws it into the empty fireplace.
The next day, a huge slew of old mean-and-cranky-looking women show up outside the Banks’ house to apply for the nanny position that Mr. Banks put in the paper. But suddenly, the weather becomes rather blustery, so much so that the wind literally blows all the women away!
Jane and Michael watch this in awe and notice a prim and proper lady floating silently down from a cloud via an umbrella!
This lady then goes into the Banks’ household applying for the nanny position. Mr. Banks is not too thrilled by this applicant, but then realizes something strange. Apparently, this applicant has a copy of the children’s ad that he TORE up the other day! How the heck the pieces managed to be gathered together, taped together, and sent to a floating woman in the clouds still puzzles ME, much less Mr. Banks!
In the end, Mr. Banks hires this person, and we all know what her name is: Mary Poppins, our eponymous heroine! She is played by Julie Andrews in her film debut, who does an impeccable job playing the role. She definitely deserved her Academy Award for this film! I can’t quite imagine anyone else playing the role.
Anyway, Mary Poppins almost at once earns the children’s obedience as well as their fascination and admiration. She enthralls them with her bag made of carpet that can hold an infinite amount of things despite being empty,
as well as by cleaning up the nursery via snapping their fingers and singing a song entitled, “A Spoonful of Sugar”.
This song is one of the most popular songs in the film and apparently was inspired by one of the Sherman Brothers (the lyricists)’ sons who told his dad that at a camp or somewhere they were given medicine to swallow, but with a sugar cube to make it taste better and “go down”. The incidents from which songs are inspired!
Once that is finished, Mary Poppins takes the kids out to the park for an outing. There we bump into our friend Bert, who’s assumed the job of a screever (a pavement artist), or as Bert calls it, “an artist of highest degree”. Bert apparently knows Mary Poppins as it’s hinted that they’ve met before and are quite good friends. Is there romance in the air? Ehh…maybe, maybe not, the movie never forces you to believe that they ever get together, but it also doesn’t make the idea impossible for us to comprehend.
Anyway, Mary Poppins and the kids admire Bert’s paintings including one of an English countryside. After much persuading by the others, Mary Poppins uses her “magical powers” that actually transports all 4 of them into the painting with new wardrobes and everything.
Wow, Mary Poppins can control the wind, fly via umbrella, snap her fingers to make things work, carry an infinite amount of things in an empty bag, and jump into two-dimensional street paintings! Mary Poppins must be a witch!
While they’re in the painting, everything else is animated while they are the only live-action characters. This is where Walt Disney showcases his famous penchant for animation and special effects. And apparently this is the part of the movie that the author P.L. Travers hated so much and wanted Walt Disney to remove. But Walt is all like “Talk to the hand” and this segment stays in.
What exactly happens in this animated sequence? Well, Mary Poppins and Bert go walking together while singing another catchy song entitled, “Jolly Holiday”, have tea at a small cantina run by penguin waiters, sing a brief melody entitled, umm…, I’ll just call it “The Name Song”, and have an extremely drawn out dancing sequence with Bert and the animated penguins.
They then go on a merry-go-round with Jane and Michael and then somehow manage to get their merry-go-round horses to “become real” and ride them to win a derby whilst saving a fox from being caught in a foxhunt.
Hey, if they can jump into a two-dimensional painting, then I’m ready to believe anything else! But the most important part of this animated sequence is the inclusion of the most famous song in the movie, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”! The Spell-Checker is going berserk right now!
The song is extremely catchy and introduces us to a word that one can say when one doesn’t know what to say. So far, I’ve never had to use it at all in my life, thankfully!
Anyway, our animated sequence comes to an end as rain starts to fall in the park causing Mary Poppins, Bert, and the kids to come out of the painting, head back to their respective homes in order to get dry, and go to bed. Mary Poppins sings what I believe to be the most forgotten song in the whole movie, “Stay Awake”, to the children to get them to fall asleep.
“Stay Awake” is a pretty slow and soothing lullaby, which was apparently planned to be cut from the film once upon a time until Julie Andrews wrote to P.L. Travers to convince Disney to keep the song in. In my opinion, I wouldn’t have minded. This is probably the only song in the movie that I don’t like. Maybe it’s just too slow for me, I dunno!
The next day, Mary Poppins takes the children on another adventure: this time they’re visiting Uncle Albert to help him with his…predicament. You see, Uncle Albert, played by the amazing Ed Wynn in his last film role, has this condition that when he laughs a lot, he starts floating to the ceiling. How do I know this? He sings about it, of course, in a song entitled, “I Love To Laugh”.
In the end, Jane, Michael, and even Bert start laughing and end up floating to the ceiling alongside Uncle Albert. Mary Poppins magically joins them and manages to cause the tea-table to levitate as well, thereby allowing them all to have a tea party on the ceiling.
Now the problem is, how to get down? Well, the remedy is that they have to think of something sad. So, they do just that.
Ok, no, it didn’t work exactly like that; instead they think about how they have to leave soon and their visit with Uncle Albert will come to an end. And…that does the trick! Bye Ed Wynn, thanks for your cameo-like appearance!
When they get home this time, Mr. Banks is upset that his children seem to be telling jokes, talking about tea parties on the ceiling, etc. and decides to have a word with Mary Poppins somewhat scolding her in a sort of reprise of “The Life I Lead”. But Mary Poppins is too clever and actually convinces Mr. Banks to take his kids with him to the bank tomorrow thereby giving them time with their father and away from Mary Poppins. Mr. Banks is confused at first, but soon finds the idea to be extraordinary.
Mary Poppins then goes upstairs to tell the children the good news before they go to bed and sings them the ever popular, “Feed the Birds” song. The song, about charity and kindness, was said to have been Walt Disney’s personal favorite song and that he would have the Sherman Brothers play it for him on many occasions.
The next day, Mr. Banks takes the kids to the bank, but on the way they pass by a lady feeding selling birdseed. Michael wants to use some of his tuppence to buy a bag and help the cause (as Mary Poppins’ song the previous night told him to do). But, Mr. Banks forbids it and decides to show Michael the “extremely interesting” thing that he can do with his tuppence when they get to the bank.
Once they reach the bank, we meet the board of directors of the Dawes, Tomes, Mouseley, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. Mr. Banks then tells them that the kids would like to open an account at the bank! Wow, I’m sure Michael would have found that process an “extremely interesting” one indeed.
The head, Mr. Dawes Sr. played by Dick Van Dyke, is ecstatic to find that Michael has two coins to put in the bank, but Michael won’t allow his money to be deposited into the bank. So, Mr. Dawes Sr., Mr. Banks, and the other executives try to persuade Michael to deposit the money via a song entitled, “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank”, which happens to be my personal favorite song in the movie!
I know that it’s a weird choice for a favorite song, but I just loved the adult/complicated lyrics and tone of the song! I mean, how many kids can even understand what the song is talking about? And we also get to see the bank executives sing and dance! Well, not so much dance, as walk around and nod at each other.
In the end, Michael, completely flabbergasted by the song and the executives’ motives, accidentally gives in to their wishes. But once he’s no longer hypnotized by the song, he starts to scream for his money back!
This, in turn, causes other bank-goers to mistakenly assume that the bank isn’t giving someone their money back. And, as you can imagine, panic ensues. Everyone heads to the tellers to get their money back. Flocks upon flocks of people from the city start heading to the bank to withdraw their money. Guards have to keep angry mobs out, clerks have to keep valuable money in. It’s just a total mess. And while we’re at it, how the heck did the false news that the bank was refusing withdrawals spread so quickly to the city? Somebody probably tweeted it.
Anyway, Jane and Michael run away from their father and the bank, frightened for their lives at the whole hullabaloo. They bump into people, a cat, and even the voice actress of Cruella de Vil.
They also bump into Bert (who’s a chimney sweep now) and tell him why they’re running scared. He then tells them not to worry and takes them to their home while singing the Academy Award-winning, “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. The song is extremely catchy and is kinda a philosophy-of-life song and kinda a song about the life of chimney sweeps.
When he drops them home, he finds that Mrs. Banks is off to another suffragette rally and nobody can watch the kids as it’s Mary Poppins’ day off. So, she kindly asks Bert to stay and watch the kids and clean the chimney while he’s at it. Very trusting woman, Mrs. Banks is! I mean, a stranger brings her kids home and she gives him access to her kids and her house! Then again, one could argue that she knows Bert or at least has seen him around long enough to know that he’s trustworthy.
This later leads to Bert and the kids exploring the chimneys and rooftops of London along with Mary Poppins, who decides to spend her holiday being with the children. Hmm, talk about a busman’s holiday! While on the rooftops, we are treated to some gorgeous matte paintings created by the Disney special effects creator, Peter Ellenshaw.
We also meet many of Bert’s chimney sweep mates. They all get together and sing a song entitled, “Step in Time”.
The song is an extremely simple, yet extremely catchy song that starts with the chimney sweeps being merry on the rooftops and ends with the chimney sweeps being merry down in the Banks’ house singing along with the cook, maid, and even Mrs. Banks. Mr. Banks soon returns home and wants to know what the heck’s going on!
Finally after everyone leaves, Mr. Banks receives a telephone call from his superiors asking him to come to the bank. He realizes that he is in big trouble for what happened at the bank earlier and talks to Bert about how this is all Mary Poppins’ fault. But Bert, in a quite heartfelt scene, explains to Mr. Banks (in somewhat musical fashion, of course) that Mary Poppins is only here to make him see what’s going on: his children are constantly being neglected by him and his wife. Mrs. Banks is too busy with her suffragette movement, and Mr. Banks is too busy with work, so much so, that the children feel distant from him. And soon the children will grow up and leave the house, but it’ll be too late to repent then. (Well, Bert hints all this; he doesn’t really explain it as directly as I’ve just done).
Mr. Banks is somewhat shocked at all this and to top it all off, Michael and Jane come downstairs, apologize to their father for everything that’s happened at the bank, and give him the two coins that started the whole trouble in the first place.
Mr. Banks is touched and taken aback at all this. He then heads to the bank while processing all that Bert and his kids have told him. When he arrives at the bank, he’s fired from his position for the “disgraceful conduct” of his son. Mr. Banks is quite downtrodden, but quickly learns his lesson and goes through a transformation making him giddy, joyous, and “mad as a march hare”.
He even manages to kill off the elder Mr. Dawes.
In the end, Mr. Banks comes home the next day and surprises everyone at how he’s changed for the better. The ones who see this best are Jane and Michael whose kite he fixed as a surprise for them. They are ecstatic and go out to fly the kite along with their mother. Seeing the family together and happy, Mary Poppins realizes that her job is done, that she’s saved Mr. Banks and shown him the truly important things in life (or some such life lesson), and decides to head on back home in the clouds. Bert (who’s now a kite salesman) notices and gives his good-bye to Mary Poppins while Mr. Banks is offered to fill the position at the bank that Mr. Dawes Sr. so serendipitously left.
All this goes on while the ever enjoyable, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” is sung by the Banks family, Bert, and background singers. A marvelous end to a magnificent movie! Ooh, alliteration, I quite like it!
What can I say about this movie? It’s “practically perfect in every way”! The story is a very interesting one, at first seeming to have no story; it just seems to be a few random adventures with Mary Poppins. But then, the plot later gets developed through the supporting characters, especially during the bank run incident! And the film just seems to flow so smoothly!
Also, we have to give credit for the animation and art design (or whatever the proper technical term is) of this film. This is at a time when computers weren’t invented and for Walt to be able to have live-action and animation mesh seemingly effortlessly and still look credible even in the year, 2013 is an amazing feat! We also have to credit the late Peter Ellenshaw for his marvelous matte paintings that just seem so real; he truly has helped many of Disney’s films with his matte paintings and special effects!
And the acting? Superb! The kids are perfect! Dick Van Dyke (even with his Cockney accent) is perfect! Julie Andrews is perfect! Glynis Johns is perfect! The supporting cast is perfect! But my favorite (and in my mind, the best) actor in this entire movie would have to be David Tomlinson! He played the role of Mr. Banks almost effortlessly; you REALLY think that Mr. Tomlinson is Mr. Banks! I honestly think the only other person who could have pulled this role off would have been Rex Harrison, but it still would have been inferior to David Tomlinson’s performance!
Summing up, I love this film immensely as do many of us and one can see why it’s my favorite live-action Disney film of all time! But maybe that’ll change by the time this blog is a few months old, hmm?
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final rating of this film is: 35/35 = 100% (A+) !