I have to admit that I am not really a Mary Poppins fan. As a kid, I wanted more of the cartoon stuff that there wasn’t much of in the movie, and as an adult, I find Mary Poppins herself to be a bit of a snob. The way she seems to hold her nose in the air while saying how she is practically perfect in every way…really, she came across as terribly judgmental and superior when she wasn’t being delightful. If anyone other than Julie Andrews had played the character way back when, she would have probably been insufferable. And that’s not even getting into how much Mary’s creator P.L. Travers felt about the movie adaptation of her work.
Mental note: read one of those books one of these days.
At any rate, Disney now has a sequel to what is probably its best known live action movie in the form of Mary Poppins Returns.
Set sometime during the Great Depression, the Banks children Jane and Michael (Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw) are both all grown up. Jane is a labor activist while widowed Michael wanted to be an artist but instead works as a bank teller while trying to care for his three children, John, Anabel, and Georgie. After forgetting to make some loan payments, the bank Michael works for is set to repossess the childhood home Michael still lives in unless he can somehow find the money to pay it off completely in five days’ time. And into all this, in order to care for the Banks children once again, comes Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt).
I’m actually torn about this one. There’s a lot going for it. Director Rob Marshall knows his way around musicals these days, and the set pieces are at least visual masterpieces, full of the sorts of special effects Uncle Walt could have only dreamed of. Blunt, who may have only taken the role with Andrews’ blessing, is fantastic as Mary Poppins. Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack the lamplighter does what he does best as both a singer and a dancer. There’s a lot to like about Mary Poppins Returns.
On the other hand, I’m typing this about three to four hours after I got out of the movie, and I can’t say I remember too much about any of the songs. I’ll give the people here credit in that while many songs may have similar thematic moments to some of the fairly memorable songs from the original, none of them are simple reprisals, even for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” but likewise none of them stuck out to me in any particular way. And much of the original movie largely dealt with Mary Poppins showing the Banks children to really enjoy themselves as children while their father (no one cares about what a mother is doing in any of these movies…that’s so Disney) learns to let his kids be kids. This one does a bit of that as well while also adding things like a romantic subplot and actual human villains. And that last song seemed to be a bit too much for me, truth be told. I could have done without it, or at least trimmed it down a bit as the movie had run long enough by then.
All in all, Mary Poppins Returns was a mixed bag. I found it fine, and it would be perfectly acceptable for families. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again, but I don’t regret seeing it. As flawed as it was, it was also probably the best we could hope for in a Mary Poppins sequel in 2018. 8 out of 10 treacherous cartoon wolves.
Yeah, we also got a hand-drawn animation segment, and Disney doesn’t seem inclined to do that sort of thing anymore, so there’s also that.