- Released Internationally on 29/11/13
- Released in Malta by KRS on 29/11/13
3-word review: Unusual Disney Magic.
Most people alive today, or at least those in the western world, have had their childhood years sprinkled with Disney magic in some form or another. The baby boomers were around when Walt Disney himself was transforming the world of animation and family cinema; my generation got to savour the Mermaid-Beauty-Aladdin peak and all the unforgettable music it brought with it; and today’s children are spoilt for choice thanks to the excellent quality of recent offerings, especially the collaborations with Pixar. Mary Poppins has somehow persisted through all of this, with its most recent incarnation being a stage musical. A childhood without ever having heard the word ‘Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious’ is not one I would wish upon anyone.
The making of
Which is a large part of the reason why this very unique film has such a great, nostalgic appeal to it. It is basically an entertaining, moving, film version of what you normally would expect to find amongst the extras on a DVD set. It is essentially a behind-the-scenes look at how 1964’s Mary Poppins was made. The reason it makes for entertaining viewing is that the author of the Mary Poppins children’s books - a very British lady who went by the name of P. L. Travers - was a very hard nut to crack, and it took Walt Disney many years and tonnes of charm to draw her to tinsel town and let him make the musical version of her books that he had promised his daughters.
There are few more enjoyable things to watch than a hard nut being slowly cracked, and acting goddess Emma Thompson is wonderful to watch as she slowly, and only very slightly, warms to the carefree Los Angeles ways and cautiously lets go of her precious literary creation. A large part of the persuasion process comes by way of the sublime music that the famous Sherman Brothers (portrayed here by B. J. Novak from The Office and Jason Schwartzman from The Darjeeling Limited) were composing at the peak of their powers, and which can still gets throats humming and toes tapping fifty years later.
Filling the powerful but warm role of the head of the Disney empire himself is Tom Hanks, who delivers yet another seemingly understated but ultimately excellent performance after his recent Captain Phillips, although if he gets any awards glory this year I imagine it will be for that, not this. His to-and-fro wrangling with Travers whilst never wavering in his determination to make the film he wanted to make is the stuff of warm drama films, not forgotten DVD extras, so I’m glad it has been given this first class treatment. These scenes are carefully woven in between scenes from Travers’ childhood, where her loving but unreliable father (Colin Farrell) was a clear inspiration for the imperfect Mr Banks, and where the events that followed explain her unwavering devotion to the characters in her books.
In the end
Ultimately, the film owes much of its feel-good factor and audience appeal to Mary Poppins itself, and even lifts a couple of songs for key scenes and touching moments. But the two stories are undeniably melded together, so it is a rare and wonderful joy to see this companion piece reach our cinema screens, and remind us of the excitement we felt, back when the winds were in the east, and the mist was coming in.