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Mary Poppins (45th Anniversary Edition) - family and children's DVD / fantasy DVD / literary adaptation DVD review
Rated G by the MPAA curledupdvd.com rating: 5 stars
Actors: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Hermione Baddeley
Director: Robert Stevenson   Distributor: Walt Disney Video
DVD release: 27 January 2009   Runtime: 139 min. (2 discs)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD features: Original aspect ration (1.66:1), Audio tracks (2.0 Original Theatrical Stereo Mix - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish), Mary Poppins from Page to Stage, Step in Time (Broadway performance, MP3 download), Video intro w/ scenic & costume designer Bob Crowley, Bob Crowley's Design Galleries, Audio commentary (Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice, Richard Sherman), Poppins Pop-Up Fun Facts, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins, Movie Magic, The Gala World Premiere, Dick Van Dyke Make-Up Test, Original trailers and ads, Still art galleries, Disney's Song Selection, Magical Musical Reunion, A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman, Bonus short (The Cat That Looked at a King), Mary Poppins Opens the Door, Deleted song ("Chimpanzoo")

It hardly seems possible that this movie is celebrating such a landmark year. Certainly a seminal movie for Walt and the entire Disney studio in 1964, this re-release shows the charm, timelessness and oh-so-clever touches in vibrant colors, with a terrific disk of extras. The magical aura created by Mary Poppins continues on to successive generations, much to the joy of those of us who remember its original release 45 years ago.

Just to do things a little differently, I highly recommend that you start with the second disk and really see the behind the scenes details and talents before you take on the movie itself. You can leave the Broadway play portion for after the movie, to see where this new approach differs from the movie. Watch the segments hosted by Dick Van Dyke, who looks absolutely marvelous. The special features show compilations, behind-the-scenes looks, current interviews with the stars, and so much more. The dates on these features go back as far as 2002, but having all this wealth of information in one place is delightful.

Unlike some special features disks, which impart a flavor of dryness and "filler" material, the effervescence in this second disk is unmistakable and truly enjoyable. It enhances the movie by giving you tidbits about filming, about when the children didn't know the outcome of certain scenes, and great details about the blending of animation with live action - compellingly remarkable when you realize the lack of CGI and other modern "tricks of the trade" when the movie was made.

And then, of course, there is the music by the Sherman Brothers. Not only do the songs blend the story together seamlessly; words and expressions, sentiments and flavors all have mixed together in our modern lexicon - from the spectacularly silly "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" to such common messages as "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." Our hearts soar with "Let's go Fly a Kite," and our memories and innate belief in doing things for others, brings teary eyes with the touching and affectionate "Feed the Birds." We cheer with "Sister Suffragette" and look with envy upon the ceiling-bouncing Ed Wynn in "I Love to Laugh." These are movie moments, and movie songs, that make many Disney movies so worth watching time and time again.

Is Mary Poppins a message film? Of course! But its message is the foundation of the Disney empire: good triumphs over evil, the love of family is of paramount importance, and it isn't money that matters but love, understanding and nurture. We cannot fault "Uncle Walt" with the dreams he dispensed so carefully, reaching out yet letting us discover the message ourselves through viewing. This an anniversary well worth celebrating and remembering - and to enjoy as a whole family, time and time again. Some of the dynamic extras that should be watched for include details about author P.L. Travers, whose input was required by the terms of her deal with Disney, the tributes to vaudeville and Gilbert and Sullivan embraced by the Shermans' songs, the inside scoop about the Pearlies Band, and the gorgeous set paintings by Peter Ellenshaw.

The movie itself plays as bright and dynamic as the day it first hit the big screen in 1964. From the moment Mary (Julie Andrews) drifts effortlessly from the clouds to the sunny environs of 17 Cherry Tree Lane in London, the viewer is entranced by the possibilities. For the neophyte viewer who has never been fortunate enough to see the movie to the usually-jaded adult who has seen it more times than are countable, we delight in seeing our favorite moments reanimated again on screen and in our imaginations. Walt Disney's personal favorite scene and song was "Feed the Birds," and for many of us, the touching ballad gives way to introspection and tender memories. It is a movie meant to watch over and over again as a family feast of joyousness and delight.

A rather odd lack of the features disk is the absence of David Tomlinson, who played Mr. Banks so beautifully. Although Tomlinson died in 2000, before these Filmographies were made, it seems rather insensitive and peculiar to leave out his very important place in Mary Poppins - without him to bounce off of, and to spar with, Mary Poppins would not have had a job! Tomlinson had a solid reputation as a comedic actor, and as a testament to his decency and popularity with other entertainers, when Peter Sellers was recuperating in a London hospital after a heart attack, he was said to have requested, "I only want to see David." On the other hand, the death of Matthew Garber at the age of 21 is mentioned, and he was posthumously named a Disney legend in 2004, as was Tomlinson in 2002.

There are movies that belong in every home library, and Mary Poppins is certainly one of them. It appears on several of the American Film Institutes's film lists, including top 25 musicals, (at #6) top 100 songs (for two, "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious") and received 13 Academy Award Nominations, winning 5 awards. Does any of that really matter? Probably not - so Go Fly a Kite... and when you get back, pop Mary Poppins into the DVD player, and watch it yet again.
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reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
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