Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Practically perfect in every way".

The film begins with Mary Poppins perched on a cloud high above London in Spring 1910. The action descends to earth where Bert, a cockney jack-of-all-trades, introduces the audience to the well-to-do, but troubled, Banks family, headed by the cold and aloof Mr. Banks and the loving but highly distracted suffragette Mrs. Banks.
The Banks' latest nanny quits out of exasperation after the Banks children, Jane and Michael run off in pursuit of a wayward kite. The children ask their father to help repair it, but he dismisses them and advertises for an authoritarian nanny-replacement. Jane and Michael draft their own advertisement asking for a fun and caring person, but Mr. Banks tears up the paper and throws in the fireplace. Unnoticed, the note's remains float up the chimney.
The next day there is a queue of old and disagreeable nanny candidates waiting at the door. However, a strong gust of wind blows the queue away, and Mary Poppins flies down with her umbrella to apply. Mr. Banks is stunned to see that this calmly defiant new nanny has responded to the children's ad despite the fact he destroyed it. As he puzzles, Mary Poppins hires herself and begins work.
The children face surprises of their own: Mary possesses a bottomless carpetbag, and makes contents of the children's nursery come to life and tidy themselves. The magic continues with a countryside outing via one of "screever" Bert's chalk pavement drawings, and a tea-party in midair with Mary's "Uncle Albert", who floats uncontrollably whenever he laughs.
Mr. Banks grows uncomfortable with his children's stories of their adventures, but Mary effortlessly inverts his attempted dismissal of her services into a plan to take his children with him to the bank where he is employed. Unfortunately, Mr. Dawes, Mr. Banks' extremely elderly employer, aggressively tries to persuade Michael to invest his money in the bank. When Michael protests, the other customers misunderstand, and start a run that forces the bank to suspend business. The children flee and wander into the slums of the East End of London. Fortunately, they run into Bert, now employed as a chimney sweep. He takes them safely home, explaining that their father does not hate them, but that he has problems of his own, and that unlike the children, has no one to turn to but himself.
A departing Mrs. Banks hires Bert to sweep the family's chimney and mind the children. Mary arrives back from her day off to caution the children about the hazards of this activity, and sure enough, the children are sucked up to the roof. Bert and Mary follow them and lead a tour of the rooftops of London that concludes with a joyful dance with Bert's chimney-sweep colleagues. A volley of fireworks from the Banks' eccentric neighbor, Admiral Boom, sends the entire gathering back down the Banks' chimney.
Mr. Banks arrives home, forcing Mary to conclude the festivities. Banks then receives a phone call from work ordering him to return immediately for disciplinary action. As Mr. Banks gathers his strength, Bert points out that while Mr. Banks does need to make a living, his offspring's childhood will come and go in a blink of an eye, and he needs to be there for them while he can. The Banks children approach their father to apologize, and Michael gives Mr. Banks his tuppence in the hope that it will make things alright. Banks gently accepts the offering.
A sombre and thoughtful Mr. Banks walks alone through the nighttime streets. At the bank, he is formally humiliated and fired for causing the first run on the bank since 1773. However, after being at a loss when ordered to give a statement, Mr. Banks realizes the true priorities of life and uses Mary's all purpose word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" to tweak Mr Dawes. He gives Dawes the tuppence, tells the ancient one of Uncle Albert's jokes and raucously departs. Dawes mulls over the joke, finally "gets it" and floats up into the air, laughing...
The next morning, the winds have changed direction, and so Mary must depart. Meanwhile, the Banks adults cannot find Mr. Banks, and fear that he might have become suicidal. However, Mr. Banks, now loving and joyful, reappears with the now-mended kite and cheerfully summons his children. The greatly-relieved Mrs. Banks supplies a tail for the kite, using one of her suffragette ribbons. They all leave the house without a backward glance as Mary Poppins watches from a window. In the park with other kite-flyers, Mr. Banks meets Mr. Dawes Jr., who says that his father literally died laughing. Instead of being mournful, the son is delighted his father died happy, and rehires Mr. Banks to fill the opening.
Her work done, Mary Poppins takes to the air with a fond farewell from Bert.

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