Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Boom: "How are things in the world of finance?"

Banks: "Never better. Money's sound, credit rates are moving up-up-up, and the British pound is the admiration of the world."

Give that man an offensively large bonus!

As far as most of the world is concerned, Disney's 1964 studio-bound effects movie Mary Poppins starred the lovely Julie Andrews.

In the UK however, everyone considers it to have starred Dick Van Dyke.

This is not due to any perceived shortcoming on Ms Andrews' part. Rather, it's because Mr Van Dyke's performance contains a shortcoming so unavoidable that it overshadows the entire 139 minutes.

Ask anyone from the UK what this is, and they'll all tell you the same thing: it's his English accent.

For Dick cockernies 'is way through the 'ole pickcha, guv, but never once cams ennywhere close tah spoutin' Queen Vic's bloomin' Inglish, see? (Gawd blesser)

In fact, so prolific is his astounding misuse of the dialect, that he has actually added to the language the phrase "a Dick Van Dyke accent", which denotes a terrible approximation of the English dialect, usually by an American.

Dick Van Dyke himself has never lived this down. Even last year, appearing on National Public Radio on October 23rd, the American presenter still charged him to explain himself.

Interviewer: "What is your defence sir?"

Dick Van Dyke: "They got me a coach who was Irish."

Having sat down and watched the movie last Monday morning, the whole reputation is, I feel, unwarranted. The reason why I say this is because if Dick Van Dyke does not do a credible English accent anywhere in the film, then his character therefore cannot be from England.

Quite where this incarnation of 'Bert' does hail from is then anyone's guess, as said accent doesn't sound like any other one that I have ever come across either. It's definitely not the exaggerated cockerney that I suggested three paragraphs ago though, which is a shame.

Anyway, in case you think that this highly enjoyable aspect of the film is the only one that stood out to me, you're right. After all, amongst all the spell-binding visual effects (opticals still wipe the floor with CGI) and catchy songs, what is less well-celebrated is that Dick Van Dyke actually plays a dual role.

Seriously - he's the head of the bank in tons of old make-up too. You can tell it's him by the way he walks. He's just itching to slip up and knock things over. The man can't help but exude entertainment, and it's tragic that this hilarious old fool never gets to meet his doppelgänger, but instead dies towards the end of the story. (personally, I diagnose murder)

However, watching the film purely to enjoy the actors' multiple personalities (actually several of the cast double-up) is a, heh-heh, double-edged sword, for Mary Poppins has a little-known sequel, which Julie Andrews returned for, but without her joyously enunciating co-star.

The Cat Who Looked At A King is a curious 10-minute short produced for the 2004 release of the original on DVD. (NB. "DVD" stands for "Digital Versatile Disc", not "Dick Van Dyke") This features Poppins returning to Bert's chalk drawings with a couple of new kids and presenting the wraparounds to a cartoon therein about a cat outsmarting a king.

With computer effects, much cheaper animation and a fairly bland storyline, it hardly matches the quality of the original film. However the biggest disappointment is that the cat really seems to be playing Bert's role in events, voiced by actual Brit Tracey Ullman. (maybe Dick was embarrassed about acting opposite the queen - Sarah Ferguson)

For all that, it's appropriately magical that such an oddity exists, and a charming homage to a film that is quite rightly regarded as an absolute classic.

Maybe there's still more to come though. In three years' time the film will be 50.

So whadda ya rickon, gav'ner?

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