Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
Disney / 1964 / 139 mins / G
MARY POPPINS is one of those movies I revisit every few years thinking "there is no way it is going to hold up anymore." I've changed, the world has changed, movies have changed… this now half a century old kids musical from Walt Disney may still feel quaint, hit some deeply-buried happy nostalgia for me and I'm sure I still remember the words to "A Spoonful of Sugar," but it HAS to feel dated and to have lost that luster of long ago by now. And every few years, 139 minutes after that "Buena Vista" logo pops up on my television I desperately want to go fly a kite, jump into chalk drawings and clean my house with a snap of my fingers all while singing every single song (okay, maybe not "The Life I Lead") at the top of my tone-deaf lungs. MARY POPPINS is frequently called "Disney's Masterpiece" and fifty years after its theatrical premier it has not lost a single sparkle of the magic that earned it that exalted title.
The story is, well, "slight" may not be the correct word but it is close enough. The overarching plot has the magical Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) answering the latest ad for a nanny at the home of the Edwardian Banks family. Father George (David Tomlinson) is an uptight banker who is more concerned that everything run "correctly" and "precisely" than "lovingly" or "caringly" in his house and mother Winifred (Glynis Johns) is completely preoccupied with the suffragette movement to the point that their children Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) have become rebellious and near impossible to manage to every nanny they have been pushed off on. Through a series of very episodic adventures, Mary and her jack-of-all-trades friend Bert (Dick Van Dyke) show the children a world filled with magic and wonderment while subtly repairing the broken family.
No, that doesn't sound like a story that will enthrall today's audiences but just slip this disc into your Blu-ray player and see how fast a nearly 2 and a half hour movie can fly by. MARY POPPINS is one of those rare what I'll call "perfect movies." It is timeless. Even though you can see the primitive matte lines, the special effects (which won an Oscar) are bursting with colorful magic that, like the creations of Ray Harryhausen, exist in a parallel world of pure enchantment. The songs are infectious, toe-tapping and instantly memorable. The cast is definitive. Like Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine and Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara, Andrews and Van Dyke are the ONLY Mary Poppins and Bert there can ever be.
MARY POPPINS has been a favorite film for generations of kids and adults and a must own title for every home video library. So the question isn't whether to own the movie or not (of course you should have it whether you have kids or not), the question is did Disney do this crown jewel justice for its Blu-ray debut?
The answer to the above question is a resounding "Yes!" It has been no secret that Disney seems to have this bizarre "hit-or-miss" thing going on with the quality they put into their catalog titles coming to Blu-ray. We've seen beloved titles come to the format with missing previously supplements and half-hearted restorations, but we've also seen some of the best representations of classic films on the format, period. MARY POPPINS happily falls into the latter category. The anamorphic 1.66 transfer is nothing short of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. This is simply one of the best looking classic films released on Blu-ray this year. The live action segments have a beautiful filmic look with a fine layer of film grain visible throughout, warm colors and good detail. The animated segments rank with the best Disney has brought to the format; line definition is perfect with bold, bright colors. Just gorgeous.
The original stereo soundtrack has been given a generous DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround mix, but don't think this 1964 film is going to sound like the latest Pixar release. This mix remains very true to the original with a limited soundscape (mostly front and center) but presented as crisply, cleanly and perfectly as it will probably ever be able to sound.
While we do get a couple of new supplements for this release, the bulk of the goodies have been ported over from the 40th Anniversary DVD release, which was extremely impressive and pretty hard to top.
New to this release is the featurette "Becoming Mr. Banks." Legendary song-writer Richard M. Sherman sits with actor Jason Schwartzman (who plays Sherman in this Christmas' SAVING MR. BANKS) and discusses the very troubled production. While this heavily promotes SAVING MR. BANKS, it has some wonderful moments and B-roll of Sherman on the set of the new film along with snippets of his original music tracks.
Also new to this Blu-ray is "Mary-Oke," which is just karaoke versions of "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "Step In Time" and "Chim Chim Cher-ee."
Almost all of the supplements from the 40th Anniversary DVD release comprise the rest of the goodies and they are all excellent:
The commentary track with Andrews, Van Dyke, Dotrice and composers Richard and Robert Sherman is a must hear.
The "Disney On Broadway" section focuses on the successful musical play adaptation of the film with two featurettes: "MARY POPPINS From Page to Stage" and "Step In Time."
The "Backstage Disney" section is the mother lode of goodies headed off with the superb nearly hour-long "The Making of MARY POPPINS." You'll also find the following here:
"The Gala World Premiere"
"The Gala World Premiere Party"
"Deconstruction of a Scene" (two scenes actually: "Jolly Holiday" and "Step In Time")
"Dick Van Dyke Make-Up Test"
"Publicity" houses the original theatrical trailer along with re-release trailers and TV spots.
The "Music & More" section holds another must see featurette: "A Magical Musical Reunion Featuring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman." The "Deleted Song: Chimpanzoo," "Disney Song Selection" and "Movie Sing-Along" round out the portion.
Finally, the wonderful 2004 live-action/animated short film "The Cat that Looked at a King" has Andrews taking two kids into a chalk drawing show them a fable, very MARY POPPINS like.
The MARY POPPINS: 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray doesn't require a spoonful of sugar to help it go down; it is practically perfect in every way. Highly Recommended!