The Film (5/5)
Mary Poppins is a film whose VHS tape I wore through quite easily as a child, and whose DVD (coincidentally purchased exactly 10 years ago this month as the 40th anniversary edition) I have watched at least once a year with my own kids. Disney have just released the 50th Anniversary edition Blu-ray, which while not exactly accurate (it's the films 49th annivesary, but I guess that's better than the Saving Mr. Banks edition) brings the film nicely into the HD age for more pairings of children and parents to enjoy.
The film swept the Academy Awards in 1964 with a whopping 13 awards including Best Song, Picture, Cinematography, Director, Editing, Actor (for Julie Andrews). This is no surprise, because even watching Mary Poppins now some 25 years since I originally watched the film, and 49 years after it's release it seems like one of the most innovative of all Disney releases with it's seemless blend of animation, effects, and music with some of the finest acting in a mainstream film of the era.
The film although innovative in it's approach to effects and animation is the definition of simplicity, Poppins joins the Banks family and through their time together teaches them through simple bits of fun about the importance of family, love, fun, and life and the importance of looking at the world from a different perspective. If the film were made today (and I'm certain a remake is certainly in the cards) it would be take a less subtle approach, and be much flashier and over the top with a more defined message. However, the success of Poppins is a mix of innovation and charm with it's careful, subtle approach.
Of course no review of the film can be complete without mention of the Sherman Brothers iconic music, which has stood the test of time to become iconic musical clasics. Their songs like Chim-Chim-Cher-ee (which took home the Oscar), a Spoonful of Sugar, and more elevate the film from a typical musical of the era and into something much greater. The film is grounded by excellent performances all around, however, Julie Andrews turns in a truly dynamic and wonderful performance as the titular Poppins, while Dick Van Dyke offers a unique and humorous turn as Bert.
The film begins as the children Jane and Michael Banks have driven another Nanny to quit her position after they abandon her in a nearby park to chase down their kite which got blown away by the wind. Their parents exasperated having hired numerous nannies to care for the children over the last few months are about to place an ad for a new nanny when the children, in an effort to make peace with their parents come up with an ad of their own. Their Father not only ignores their suggestions, but tears up their ad, and tosses it into the fireplace. Of course, it does not burn, but makes it's way up the chimney, and into the hands of Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), who literally blows all the competitions away. As the Banks family nanny she begins to show them the world as they've never seen it with little twist of magic, fun, and love and works on teaching the family how to remain young at heart.
Disney has been extremely hit and miss recently with it's archive titles, so needless to say I was extremely nervous about Mary Poppins on Blu-ray. The transfer, however, is gorgeous and hopefully an example of what Disney plans for it's 60's live action catalog. Mary Poppins has been presented in a 1080p AVC encoded 1:66:1 transfer that is an upgrade in every conceivable way. The colors are natural where they need to be, yet brighter and more fantastic as well. The detail all around has been improved all around as well, black levels are deep, flesh tones are accurate, and there is a nice grain structure at play. As I said at the beginning of the review Poppins is a film I am very familiar with, and I could not see any issues with the transfer, and only positives.
Disney has presented Mary Poppins with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track in English. The audio much like the video is superbly restored, and sounds wonderful. The dialogue comes through nice and clear, as do the songs and score and the effects. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Most of the extras on this set have been ported over from the 40th Anniversary DVD release, if you have that most of what we have here is not knew. You have the same commentary, and Backstage Disney extras as on the prior disc, however, they are interesting and are worth checking out even if you have seem them, and will be interesting to newcomers as well. As far as new extras we have "Mary-Oke" a sing along option for the songs in the movie, and also a 14 minute BTS called Becoming Mr. Sherman which deals with the Mary Poppins making of Saving Mr. Banks which is in theaters this month.
Mary Poppins is one of the greatest of all films in the Disney Canon. The restoration from Disney is simply gorgeous, and the extras are elaborate, and interesting even if nothing new relating to the film has been added. Overall, this is a substantial upgrade where it counts, and as such comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.