REVIEW: Mary Poppins Returns
I absolutely loved Mary Poppins Returns. Loved it. For me, it was different from the original, yet strangely familiar. It had heart and wonderful songs. I loved it.
I have a love/hate relationship with these Disney live action remakes and sequels. I always think, "What is the point? Why do they have to make another movie about [insert Disney classic film]?"
But, then I end up liking the film. Some more than others. Well, except for Maleficent which, to this day, is the only Disney remake that I absolutely hate.
I am putting Mary Poppins Returns in the upper echelon of my favorites.
The story revolves around the family of Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw), a recent widower who finds out that he is going to lose his home to the very bank he works for. His sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) is very much a part of his life and, following in her mother's footsteps, is an activist. This time, she is a labor organizers. Michael's children are all pragmatic kids, the eldest two John (Nathaniel Saleh) and Anabel (Pixie Davies) having to help raise younger brother Georgie (Joel Dawson). As Michael starts becoming more desperate to find the one bank share that may save their home, Mary Poppins returns (yes, I said it) to their lives to deliver wisdom about being a child and learning to connect with the world around them. And, she does this with the help of lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) who had met Mary Poppins when he was younger as an apprentice to Bert.
I always have a test for Disney films that will tell me if I love the film. And that is if it made me cry. I had seen the scene of Mary Poppins returning the kite to Georgie many times. Mary Poppins floating out of the sky out of a bank of clouds. But, as I watched the movie, I started weeping. I had the same reaction the first time I saw Winnie the Pooh on screen during Christopher Robins. There's something very magical about seeing our favorite childhood figures again in a fresh new way.
I thought that Emily Blunt was fantastic in the role of Mary Poppins. Let's face it. Much like Alden Ehrenreich playing Han Solo, Emily Blunt had the task of playing a character that is so iconic. There is no way she could compete with Julie Andrews. Not that Emily Blunt isn't a capable and amazing actress, but because Julie Andrews's legend shines so brightly. Blunt said that she didn't want to watch Mary Poppins to avoid imitating Julie Andrews which I think was a smart move. She was able to play her in a way that was her own, yet also felt very Mary Poppinsy. I believed she was Mary Poppins.
And how can you not love Lin-Manuel Miranda. He looked like he was having a really good time in this film. That's one thing I love about him. He just looks like he's having fun.
Guest starring in the film are Meryl Streep as Mary Poppins's cousin Topsy, Angela Lansbury as the balloon lady and Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes, Jr.. Karen Dotrice, who played the original Jane Banks, had a cameo as well. I think it was smart of Julie Andrews to bow out being in the film, even though it would have been a delight to see her in it.
The music in the film was wonderful. I think it was smart to involve Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman who wrote the music to Hairspray as well as the songs in the television series Smash (which was cancelled way before its time, I think!). Their ability to bring a level of pastiche to their music, they were able to capture the heart of a Mary Poppins song without actually copying them. Mary Poppins's songs always have some kind of lesson to them. And I thought her first song,"Can You Imagine That," was perfect to size up the children. She sees so much responsibility has been heaped upon them, that they don't see the joy in something as simple as a bath. The song calls back to "A Spoonful of Sugar."
"Trip a Little Light Fantastic" calls back to "Chim Chim Cheree" which is also accompanied by a fantastic dance number featuring numerous soot covered lamplighters with Jack in the lead. "Now Where To Go But Up" is very "Let's Go Fly A Kite," where you feel just so joyous. And "The Place Where Lost Things Go" calls back to "Feed The Birds" and serves as the emotional heart of the film.
But, there are also songs that are different from the original. Meryl Streep's "Turning Turtle" brought a little Russian flair to it and "A Cover Is Not A Book" includes rap in it. Yet, all the old and new sounds meld together so well.
I love how the film does use familiar musical refrains from the original film without becoming dependent on it. For example, as Mary Poppins enters the Banks home for the first time, we hear a couple of bars from "A Spoonful of Sugar." It's enough to hook you and give you the feels. The themes from both movies come through without competing with each other.
I know a lot of people have strong feels against this film, but I would encourage you to give the film a chance. I really do think they did a great job with the film. There is enough here to satisfy even the staunchest Mary Poppins fan.
Let me know what you thought of the film in the comments below!