I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Mary Poppins

You know how politicians are always saying lately that we don’t need to just worry about helping the people on Wall Street, we need to help the people on Main Street? Well one time I was at Disneyland, walking down Main Street when suddenly Mary Poppins rushed by with an entourage of kids trying to get her autograph. Not the real Mary Poppins, (because she is a fictional character in my opinion) and not Julie Andrews, but the Disneyland Mary Poppins. And I was surprised to find myself thinking you know what, Mary Poppins is kind of hot. Nobody wants to get to an age where you start to think a nanny from an old Disney movie is kind of hot, but it happens to the best of us.

And it was kind of like a door opened up there full of new possibilities, because then I realized actually back then Julie Andrews was kind of hot too, not just modern day Disneyland Mary Poppins. And she had those little hats and a talking umbrella and shit. I know alot of men are intimidated by women who are more capable than them, but I would not be against dating somebody who can fly and sit on a cloud. I don’t know what her capacity is for carrying other people and putting them on clouds and all that, I guess that would have to be addressed. But it’s pretty cool that she can do that. I would call that a point in her favor.

Well I apologize if this information shatters any illusions about what a hardcase I am, but recently I watched the movie Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins showing at a local theater. Long story. But that was kind of a revelation too because I never really gave it much thought before, but I realized this is a pretty fuckin good movie as far as that type of thing goes.

If you haven’t seen it before or don’t remember it too well, Andrews plays Mary Poppins, magical nanny riding carousel horses etc.

Mary PoppinsThere’s a famous scene where Mary interacts with animated penguins and what not, but even apart from that this is the Disney live actionmovie that’s most integrated with their world of animation. Everything in the movie from Mary’s costumes to the house with sails and a cannon on top to the stylized London cityscape looks like it was designed and manufactured by Disney artists. No half assing it. And then it’s got those catchy songs, and they go off into magical worlds inside a chalk painting, they do a dance number on the roof, they get covered in ash but not in a WAR OF THE WORLDS type of way. So it’s easy to see why everybody is charmed by this movie.

But what I noticed this time is there’s more going on than that. Even taking out the fantasy elements, the whole idea of this movie is alien to me. I don’t know about you, but I never knew anybody that had a nanny. I don’t live in a place where people hire other people to raise their kids for them. The parents in this movie are sympathetic, but they’re stupid. The dad, obviously, is too obsessed with his job at the bank, he is not good to his family and has to learn his lesson.

(See, you thought that first sentence where I mentioned Main Street/Wall Street made no sense, but now you go back and it turns out I was making this Disneyland reference but then also I was laying the groundwork to start talking about the themes of the movie and see we got this banker, that’s where the Wall Street comes in, and there’s this whole thing going on with the gap between the classes… go ahead and take a minute for it to sink in there, I don’t want anybody minds to explode from how deep it is. So ease into it please.)

The mom is cool because she’s really into the women’s suffrage movement, she comes home and sings a song to her maids to get them riled up about women’s rights and how they must fight to create a better world for their daughters. But then as soon as she hears her husband she puts all the paraphernalia away and warns everybody to shut up. “You know how Mr. Banks feels about the movement.” She reminds me of people today who are really excited about the environment or stopping the war or something and their hearts are in the right place but it’s really more of a hobby and a series of bumperstickers than something they’re going to put themselves on the line for.

We never hear Mary comment on the women’s suffrage movement, and it’s almost like she doesn’t need it because she’s such a strong and self assured woman, she clearly does what she wants and takes absolutely no shit from anybody, knowing exactly how to manipulate her boss to get what she wants with minimal confrontation. On the other hand she can’t vote, so she should probaly use her magic powers to improve Mrs. Banks’s rallies or something.

But the movie is more about class than about gender. Little Jane and Michael are these rich kids but they hate being nannied, they like to run off late at night, it’s how they cry out for attention. And the interesting thing is that all their friends are the servants and the working class – the maids, the chimney sweeps, the street performer, the beat cop. Bert changes jobs every day which makes him adventurous but also suggests things aren’t easy for some people as they are for the Banks family. He’s always hustling for a buck and making the world happier, like with his sidewalk drawings, but he’s never gonna own a house and a nanny and an army of maids. When he does his one-man-band gig in the park the rich people stand around, delighted, and then when he holds out his hat they won’t make eye contact and they suddenly have to go polish their money or something.

But the lives of the working class are like a thrilling adventure to the children. While the bankers sit in their heavily staffed homes worrying about work, the chimney sweeps are having a huge dance party on their roofs, enjoying an incredible view of London that the bosses will never get to see. Maybe there’s a sense of tourism there, these kids hang out with the workers but go home to a comfy bed. But the chimney sweeps also get Mary’s endorsement. She’s of the servant class like they are but she literally lives on a cloud and seems to control her own destiny (and has some pretty nice dresses) so she could probaly be out on the town with some handsome rich fuck if she wanted. Instead she’s on the roof with them or in the park with Bert.

The other thing going on is there’s this whole sad undercurrent to the movie. As much as it’s about fun and songs and better parenting and what not, there’s also an element or two of tragedy and unrequited love and shit. Because first of all, Bert is clearly infatuated with Mary Poppins. We got no idea where he knows her from or how long it’s been since he’s seen her, because she lives the lifestyle of a nomad, a drifter or a cloudsitter. But when she shows up he’s so fuckin happy, and he sings this song “Jolly Holiday” about how much he likes being with her. You don’t sing about holding somebody’s hand and how your heart “starts beatin’ like a big brass band” if you’re not enamored of the lady. And in case you don’t get the picture he starts listing off all the other gals he’s been with and how they’re not as good as Mary – I count twenty names.

And why not? Mary is a fun lady. You’re telling me you wouldn’t want to hang around with her? This is not an ENCHANTED situation where she talks to birds and doesn’t know better. Mary Poppins can talk to birds AND fit into modern society. She can make a carousel horse go rogue, she can make a plume of chimney smoke into stairs. That’s what she does when she’s on the job, taking care of kids. But she also enjoys rum. Who knows what she does in a 21 and over type situation. So of course Bert wants to have as many jolly holidays with her as he can get.

But Mary tries to play it like she thinks they’re just friends, she praises Bert for not wanting to “press his advantage.” And she’s not blind, she fuckin knows the poor guy is crazy for her. But she doesn’t tell him “I don’t like you that way,” she just kind of feigns ignorance.

I’m not trying to accuse Mary Poppins of being a tease. For a minute I did think this was pretty cold for her to string him along like they’re on this date when clearly he has strong feelings and she pretends not to notice. But maybe there’s a good reason for this when you consider the other tragic part of the movie. For some reason Mary has resigned herself to this life of traveling around helping families. She becomes closer to these kids than they are to their own parents, then as soon as there’s an improvement she leaves. And she acts like she doesn’t care but there’s one shot where she’s looking out the window as the dad is finally shaping up with the kids and she looks like she’s holding back tears. But not “that’ll do pig” type happy emotional tears. She loves these kids and wants to stay but her own happiness is not the priority for her. She sacrifices herself to go around helping these rich people.

Who knows how long she’s been flying around doing this, making a difference, and probaly breaking the hearts of Berts all around the world. I’m sure she could list off twenty dudes too. But since she knows she has to leave maybe it’s for the best. Maybe she even loves Bert back, but she can’t tell him that and then fly away. She doesn’t want to be a deadbeat.

I wonder what made Mary Poppins this way? Did she have shitty parents who didn’t pay attention to her in a cloud mansion somewhere? So she’s like Batman, she has to dedicate her life to a mad crusade to prevent this from happening to other kids? I don’t know. But she feels strongly about it. No wonder when the day is gray and ordinary Mary makes the sun shine bright. I mean I don’t know what value there is in this but I saw the movie and it hit me pretty hard, I was thinking about it so I thought I would mention these things.

Nah, I don’t really like it though, that was all a big joke. right guys? who likes that kind of crap anyway. Not us right guys

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2008 at 3:18 am and is filed under Musical, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

15 Responses to “Mary Poppins”

  1. I’ve read this review about 4 times now. This is the best movie review i’ve read in my whole life. Pauline Kael and those other jokers can go fuck themselves.

  2. Damn. I think I start to lose my lifelong fight against musicals and dance flicks. Recently I really started to enjoy them! It all started slowly a few years ago, with this website’s glowing recommandation of STEP UP 3(D) (which I totally agree with!) and now ends with me, really wanting to watch THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW again (after I re-watched it a few weeks ago for the first time in 15+ years) and wishing I would be an awesome-as-fuck dancer like Dick van Dyke in MARY POPPINS. (Suck it, STEP UP!)

    I’m seriously scared of finally putting HAIRSPRAY and LES MISERABLES in my DVD player. It will probably lead to a life of me, not just tolerating, but really enjoying those darn movies, where the story gets interrupted every few minutes for a useless sing and/or dance number.

  3. No shame in lenjoying a good musical. Personally I love SINGIN IN THE RAIN. Think of it as badass juxtaposition.

  4. Now I just need the badass part.

    (But to clarify, my dislike for musicals really has nothing to do with them being “not manly”. I really just don’t like it when a good story gets interrupted or unnecessarily stretched out by useless songs, doesn’t matter how good they are. Still, I seem to enjoy them more and more the older I get.)

  5. I’ll admit I got a lot of joy from SINGIN IN THE RAIN a few years ago. My daughter loves to dance, so we watched it together. I admired the talent of Gene Kelly and the skill of the production overall. And I rarely like to watch older Hollywood films. But I’m glad I saw this, it’s really good.

  6. HAIRSPRAY is a great film for Black History Month.
    (^idea for Vern’s February once he’s exhausted Scarecrow’s black singing cowboy section^)

    I prefer the 2007 version.

  7. I like SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. The storyline is hilariously inappropriate by modern standards, with a bunch of dudes kidnapping a bunch of broads and Stockholm Syndroming them into falling in love, but Howard Keel has a voice like a 12-foot-tall goddamn lumberjack, and a mustache to match. Plus there’s a huge, acrobatic barn brawl sequence looks like proto-Jackie Chan and a pretty impressive avalanche scene for fans of antique special effects. Fast-forward through all the ballads and it’s actually a pretty watchable movie.

  8. I’ve also been wanting to see GUYS AND DOLLS with Brando and Sinatra for years now. I’ve got it at home, but keep finding new action and horror films that need to be watched.

    That reminds me, you guys need to check out HERE COMES THE DEVIL from Mexican director Adrian Garcia Bogliano. Nice 70’s throwback with lots of nudity and a real sense of terror. It’s not a musical. In case you were wondering.

  9. I love musicals! I was very disappointed in the movie version of HAIRSPRAY (sanitized musical, not crazy Jon Waters version) compared to the stage production. I love GUYS AND DOLLS, but don’t expect Brando to be all that great at singing. Another fun tough guy doing some singing is PAINT YOUR WAGON, which I know has popped up here on occasion with both Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood in it, but it also has Howard Keel, who is the shit, like Majestyk says.

    It’s hard to get past some of the cheesiness of musicals, I would agree. It’s also hard to get past some of the atrocious storylines, that can especially be terrible toward women. Majestyk mentioned the one in SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (which has amazing dancing, by the way), but the one that I really, really hate is CAROUSEL. There’s actually a scene where a mother and daughter discuss how getting slapped by a man could actually feel more like a kiss if he loves her.

    My all time favorite musical is probably WEST SIDE STORY. It was one of the first musicals to tie the musical numbers into the action of the story. It’s still dancing and everything, but instead of stopping the action to do a dance number, this dancing is supposed to represent action in the story. I’m not sure if that’s something that would make it better or worse for you, but there you go, CJ. If you like beautiful women with legs that don’t stop, anything with Cyd Charisse is awesome. On the flip side, Gene Kelley is a great, athletic dancer.

    I’ll stop now before I bring up every musical and singer/dancer ever and try to come up with more synonyms for amazing.

  10. I gotta sit down and watch PAINT YOUR WAGON sometime. The movie always peaked my interest, but it´s one of those things that never happened.

  11. Gene Kelly to me was the Jackie Chan of musicals ,but one would do well to remember Donald O´Connor in SINGIN IN THE RAIN. He pulls some sick moves in that one.

  12. grimgrinningchris

    February 28th, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Agreed on Guys & Dolls AND West Side Story. Actually my top 5 (non animated) movie musicals includes both (as well as Mary Poppins).

    I did both in community theater as a teen and both were some of the most fun I’ve had in my life. I can’t sing or dance a lick, so was relegated to non-musical roles (Doc in West Side Story and 5 different background characters in Guys & Dolls- all with totally different costumes and makeup-whew!).
    I really should get back into community theater. Those really were fun times. Closest I’ve come is playing Riff in the Rocky Horror shadow-cast here for a few months a couple years ago- but I got the same charge from that.

    Someone from the drama department at my High School that COULD sing and dance was Ashley Brown who went on to originate… Mary Poppins in the show on Broadway and did that for several years.

  13. Guess where I pop up, muthafuckas?

  14. Too bad Marvel will never give her a solo film.

  15. Overall it’s a very satisfying movie, even if spontaneous musical numbers inside sidewalk chalk drawings aren’t real.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>