If you listen carefully during Mary Poppins Returns you can hear all the adults with children praying that their children would be able to feel the same way, they felt about the shiniest of Disney diamonds. After seeing Saving Mr Banks I found a new respect for Mary Poppins and I never knew I was craving that old-style Disney magic, where live action and animation were brought together before I walked into the screening. But here I am happy that I got my fill as Mary Poppins Returns nails the priority of new but familiar.
Let’s explore together what makes Mary Poppins Returns so faithful. We begin with the woman herself, played by Emily Blunt, this is exceptional casting. In her performance, she takes a few pages from how you would stereotype a British nanny but makes the character a lot different from how Julie Andrews played her. Blunt is a lot sterner, you won’t find her singing to birds, but she at least has the knowledge of when to become loose and caring. I think there is no one finer to carry on the umbrella and the reasons what made this character loved by many.
Moving away from Mary, you have a multitude of talented people in cheery roles, however for when the film becomes emotionally raw and takes a dive into the darker side, Ben Whishaw gives a convincing performance as a grown-up Michael Banks, who try to stay a great father when his life is crumbling around him and is about to lose everything. It’s a gripping experience when a film can make a dilemma feel real, half the time there is not much at stake because the risk doesn’t tie into the character. it also helps that since there hasn’t been a Mary Poppins film in over 54 years, we become overly attached to the elements of the film, making the threat of losing them early on feel engaging as we want the Banks family to succeed.
In the middle of the story, we venture into the kaleidoscope world where live action and animation are combined. The more cynical of you are going to say that you can clearly see they’re acting on a green-screen, but those people have no idea what this part of the Mary Poppins story is about. Sure, the technological powerlifting that goes into melding the two is not that exciting anymore, nevertheless, I felt transported back in time when sequences like this were unbelievable to a child. The pleasantness of the real would with the pleasing look of animation created the ideal dream world to be transported to. As for the Banks children, it’s a getaway from their established maturity and be children again.
Of course, being a Mary Poppins film, it’s all singing and all dancing. But don’t expect to hear the likes of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Step in Time or Feed the Birds. Mary Poppins Returns features completely new songs and pieces that are a welcoming addition, however, more could have been done to make the songs as memorable as the original. I felt that the original Mary Poppins’ songs were a lot catchier and bouncier, while it is easy to accept the new songs, you won’t be remembering the tune anytime soon. You will, however, remember the great dance choreography and oodles of positivity in each number, especially with lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) who is this generation’s Bert.
The priorities are clear, and while the people clearly have respect for the original, it follows the narrative a little bit too closely for my liking. This is similar to the criticism The Force Awakens received and it rides a nostalgic tidal wave to get us to like it. Even throwing in cameo roles for Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury to cloud the path its chosen (admittedly though, seeing Van Dyke dancing was incredible). but there is positivity in following the original too closely, it shows that the filmmakers are aware they can’t do better so they’ll create their own rendition of a classic, in many ways it becomes more respectful. At the same time, you could argue that because they’ve gone out of their way to change the Mary Poppins character, maybe something new would be worth the character.
I’m very impressed that director Rob Marshall knows exactly what to revisit and what to redo, the familiarity and originality are in perfect harmony. Sure, you can knock it by not living up to the original, but I felt just as entertained as I was watching Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke dance with cartoon penguins. Mary Poppins Returns will work for some and not for others, I can only speak as someone who allowed the film to work on its own. partly due to an engaging Emily Blunt but mostly for how elated I felt afterwards. There is no spoonful of sugar necessary for Mary Poppins Returns, it’s already sweet enough.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Mary Poppins Returns? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: 2018: A SMReviews Look