Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
One day, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) shows up at the door of Michael Banks, who is now grown up and a widower with three small children. He still lives at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London, and is scrambling to make his next house payment before the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank boots them out. Mary Poppins steps in to take care of the kids, leading them on an unexpected adventure through magical lands, London streets, and even the Bank itself, as they endeavor to help their dad find a way to keep the house.
With a cast including stars like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Colin Firth, this film was highly advertised, highly anticipated, and (since release) highly acclaimed. Personally – while I found the movie to be beautiful aesthetically, it was lacking in a number of key areas:
- Story: The strength of the original Mary Poppins plot was the fact that all the conflict hinged on the children’s perspective of the world, which involved perceived threat rather than actual malevolence. Mr. Banks as an antagonist was key to that storyline. Unfortunately the new story is not so effective, being a far more simplistic plot of good guys vs. bad guys.
- Music: While it’s stylistically and emotionally well crafted, the music fell a bit short for me. Anyone can pick up “Chim-Chiminey,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” and “Super-cali…” (and probably half the lyrics of the other songs) from the old movie fairly quickly. But the songs in Returns are rather clever and complicated, so much that I doubt a small child could learn them easily. Also, apart from a couple of songs – Michael Bank’s solo, “A Conversation” (to his late wife) and “Where the Lost Things Go” – I didn’t feel a big emotional impact from the score. The songs were fine, but overall they didn’t grab me like “Feed the Birds” or even “I Love to Laugh.”
- Consistency: The biggest flaw in the film is its unevenness. Some scenes are very like the old film, quaint and old-fashioned. Then there’s scenes which really don’t belong, like Mary’s vaudeville dance in “A Cover is Not the Book,” or the cringy, painfully stereotyped portrayal of her Russian “cousin” (played by Meryl Streep). After those episodes, I started to get uncomfortable, not knowing what to expect.
Dick Van Dyke has an all-too-small role in the film, near the end. My favorite cameo, however, was an unexpected one – David Warner.
Some of us know him better as the sinister Captain Sawyer in Horatio Hornblower: Mutiny (2001). Happily he’s not terrorizing poor midshipmen in this film, but rather playing a very charming Admiral Boom.
In summary: I recommend watching this on DVD if you’re curious, but I don’t feel it was worth going to the movies for. And for comparison’s sake…I enjoyed Paddington 2 (2017) much more.
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