For my review of the original, click the following link: MARY POPPINS (1964)
Having now been baptized as a new fan of Mary Poppins, I am even more excited to see the sequel… again. Yeah, bit of a story. I’ve actually seen the movie already, albeit unfinished, about a year ago thanks to an early screening. In place of all the hand-drawn animation that’s now in the film, it was still in story-board concept art just slapped on screen. Still, cool experience, but I’ve not been able to write about it until now. Nondisclosure agreements, you understand. At the time, I really liked the film, but now I’m curious to see how it holds up, especially now that I have the original under my belt.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Emily Blunt (A QUIET PLACE , MY LITTLE PONY , HUNTSMAN 2 , and SICARIO ), Pixie Davies (MISS PEREGRINE ), Nathanael Saleh (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), and Joel Dawson (making his feature film debut; congrats, sir).
In support, we have Lin-Manuel Miranda (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Ben Whishaw (PADDINGTON 2 , HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING , SPECTRE , and upcoming films LITTLE JOE  and THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD ), Emily Mortimer (HEAD FULL OF HONEY , SENSE/ENDING , HUGO , and upcoming films MARY  and RELIC ), Colin Firth (MAMMA MIA  and 2 , KINGSMAN  and 2 , and BRIDGET JONES 3 ), and Meryl Streep (MAMMA MIA 2, FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS , RICKI AND THE FLASH , and upcoming films LITTLE WOMEN  and THE LAUNDROMAT ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Rob Marshall, known for INTO THE WOODS (2014) and PIRATES 4 (2011). Penning the screenplay is David Magee, known for FINDING NEVERLAND (2004). Co-composing the score are Marx Shaiman (THE BUCKET LIST  and A FEW GOOD MEN ) and Scott Wittman (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of). The cinematographer is Dion Beebe, known for SNOWMAN (2017), 13 HOURS (2016), and upcoming films GEMINI MAN (2019) and I AM WOMAN (2019). Finally, the editor is Wyatt Smith, known for DOCTOR STRANGE (2016), RICKI/FLASH, and THOR: DARK WORLD (2013).
Let’s see if this movie holds up.
This is my honest opinion of: MARY POPPINS RETURNS
Set in Depression Era London. The Banks family has fallen on hard time. As a result of falling behind on loan payments, the family house will be repossessed by the bank. The only way to save it is by finding Michael’s (Ben Whishaw) father’s certificate of the shares that he owned so long ago, but has since gone missing. Michael’s children, Anabele (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson), who have had to grow up too fast since their mother passed away, are all about to get a little help from an old friend of the family, the magical nanny, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt).
Yeah, I really like this one. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the original, but it’s still a worthy and worthwhile sequel.
One would think that one of the bigger things that a Mary Poppins sequel would need to nail is the music and they do that. “Lovely London Sky” while Jack is roaming around turning out the street lamps, acting all cheery while everyone’s in the Great Depression… or, the Great Slump, I guess the Brits called it. “Can You Imagine That,” “The Royal Doulton Music Hall,” and “Introducing Mary Poppins” all had absolutely wonderful animation that seemed a lot smoother than its predecessor. Oh, and I absolutely adored the number “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.” The choreography was already a ton of fun, but when they incorporated the ladders and bicycles, that just really uped the ante. And I really enjoyed the softer “Where the Lost Things Go.” It doesn’t quite hold a candle to Julie Andrews’ softness, but… honestly, now that I’m thinking about it, some of the songs even serve a more impactful purpose to the characters than the previous version. “Stay Awake” is a beautifully sung lullaby, but I feel like the kids in RETURNS have a bit more of an emotional arc to overcome regarding their mother. “Lost Things” still serves as a lullaby, but it also pertains to the children on a personal level that we all empathize with. I can imagine a few out there criticizing the film for being too particular. The original film was a simple story and simple songs to complement it. This movie is trying to be a little more complex and trying to deal with harsher issues during a harsh period of time. The movie is making the children more complex and therefore, need a less simplistic song to help them through their journey. I really respect this film for doing that and doing it as effectively as it did.
Some smaller positives that I’d like to list off:
- I’m so glad that the movie decided to make the bird at the end of Mary’s umbrella a character. It was a random last second addition to the original, so I’m happy it’s a character here.
- I absolutely adore some of Blunt’s reactions. When John asks Mary how much she weighs, I couldn’t stop cracking up to her offended reaction.
However, the movie isn’t perfect, so let’s go through what problems I had.
As much as I enjoyed all the hand-drawn animated sequences, did anyone else feel like the animated characters and things were just kind of there working around the live-action actors, rather than them working together? Really watch the original’s “Jolly Holiday,” specifically when Dick Van Dyke is dancing with the penguins. He’s… well… he’s dancing with the penguins. He looks at them and interacts with them. It really feels like they were occupying the same space and he knew it. In “Introducing Mary Poppins,” they interact with the animated characters sometimes, but it feels… one sided. It feels like the actors are putting on a performance, and animation is just being animated around them, not with them, if that makes any sense. Don’t get me wrong, we need more hand-drawn animation, it’s a gorgeous style that deserves a more frequent appearance on the big screen, but there’s room for improvement.
And I won’t lie, I really didn’t understand why the movie had to be put on hold for a brief kidnapping scene. Yeah, there’s a scene where Georgie gets kidnapped by a cartoon… fox? I don’t remember. Sheesh, I’ve seen this movie twice and I can’t even remember what the animal was that kidnapped him. But there’s a reason why I don’t remember. It’s unnecessary. The closest thing we learn is that this it’s somehow meant to foreshadow that Colin Firth was the bad guy… which… was already revealed, so it was unnecessary.
I hate to give my co-worker the satisfaction of being right, but… was Mary a little too mean-spirited this go-round? In the first movie, I was expecting someone who was mean and too cross with the children, forcing them to grow up when they didn’t need to. But no, I got a character who was certainly firm, but never raised her voice or edged on the notion of attacking the children verbally. I kind of got that feeling here. I won’t say that she full-on chastises the kids, or anything, but I feel like her firmness was pushed a little too far here. I might have to watch the movie again to really dissect this, but something about Mary made her less likable. Not a ton, but enough to notice a distinguished reaction between Andrews’ Mary, and Blunt’s Mary.
Ugh, I hate that I’ve talked so much about the negatives. I don’t want it to sound like that I dislike the movie. In fact, I like it. When I’m watching the movie, I’m lost in the moment and enjoying so much of it. I like these characters. I like the grown up Michael and Jane, I like the children, who seem to have grown up too fast, and I really like Blunt as Mary. The music numbers are great, the animation is wonderful, and I respect that the film is a little more mature and complex. But, yeah, it’s got a few issues. Granted, some of them are nitpicky, but some of them feel a little more… illuminated, we’ll say. I’d say that if the movie intends to make this a three-quel, the next batch of kids should be actual troublemakers. The first movie had… basic kids that were alluded to be troublemakers, but were more or less behaved. This movie had grown-up kids, but I think Mary should try and tackle kids that actually don’t listen to her. Give her a real challenge. I just feel like that’d be a more interesting dynamic. But make no mistake, I like this movie. It’s a lot of fun and very much worth seeing and gets my full endorsement.
My honest rating for MARY POPPINS RETURNS: 4/5
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