National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks & Passes

BY Steven D. Greydanus

January 25-31, 2009 Issue | Posted 1/16/09 at 12:40 PM


Mary Poppins (1964) - Pick

The Lucky Ones (2008) - Pass

Why is Disney marking the 45th anniversary of Mary Poppins with a new two-disc special edition DVD when the comparable 40th anniversary edition is still available? Wouldn’t a Blu-ray release make more sense?

Whether the new edition or the older one, Mary Poppins’ magic remains potent enough to enthrall its legions of fans with its energetic song and dance, pleasing blend of animation and live action, anarchic nonsense, and the vibrant, slightly unsettling presence of Julie Andrews’ uncanny nanny.

Is there anyone who doesn’t love Mary Poppins?

Well, yes. I have to admit I’m in the curmudgeonly minority on this one — but don’t let that stop your family from enjoying it. I know a hopeless cause when I see it.

Actually, I like Mary Poppins herself just fine, arriving by magic umbrella to turn the heart of the father toward his children — and to get the children mothered by their mother again instead of by a nanny. I like most of the movie, too.

What I don’t like is the distracting political subtexts — no, I’m not kidding — running through the film. It’s not what the movie has to say, if you can get to the bottom of it. (Does Mary Poppins affirm suffragettes or satirize them?) It’s that it’s saying it at all.

Give me Dick Van Dyke — much-abused Cockney accent and all — dancing with animated penguins and stepping in time on London rooftops, give me Julie Andrews glaring in exasperation at a helplessly hysterical, levitating Ed Wynn, and I’m happy.

Also new on DVD this week, Neil Burger’s The Lucky Ones is a not quite successful attempt to blend the indie road-movie crass-comedy milieu of Little Miss Sunshine and Sideways with the Iraqi War genre.

Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Peña play a trio of wounded veterans returning stateside who wind up together on a cross-country road trip of self-discovery.

Unfortunately, the filmmakers seem to not understand their own characters much better than do the civilians they encounter.

Robbins returns home to a domestic crisis that’s as unconvincing as it is painful, and McAdams’s Southern-fried fundamentalist religiosity is an implausible blend of fire-and-brimstone judgmentalism and uninhibited sexual frankness. Both situations involve characters behaving in ways that suggest mental illness, but the movie seems not to mean it that way.

The best I can say about The Lucky Ones is that — despite the presence of famously liberal Robbins — it’s not political, and it seems to be sincerely appreciative of our armed forces.

But it’s too shallow and too crass to really recommend.

New this week on Blu-ray: The Bourne Trilogy (2002–2007, mature viewing); Groundhog Day (1993, teens and up).

CONTENT ADVISORY: Mary Poppins: Nothing objectionable. Fine family viewing. The Lucky Ones: Some profanity; crude and/or sexually explicit dialogue; sexual situations; a roadside bombing and a brief barroom scuffle. Mature viewing.