MARY POPPINS RETURNS Review
Fifty-five years on from its release, and the original ‘Mary Poppins’ still has enough whimsy and charm to entertain audiences, young and old. From Julie Andrews’ prim-and-proper English attitude, to the ground-breaking animated sequences, to Dick Van Dyke’s infamous and preposterous “cockney” accents, the film has a timeless legacy. So, who would have a though a modern sequel would meet that standard?
Director Rob Marshall, who brought whimsical musical fantasy into Into the Woods, brings whimsical, musical fantasy, into Mary Poppins Returns. Mary Poppins Returns, is a sequel follows the trend set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with the sequel following the same beats as the original. There’s an animated sequence, visits to the ominous bank, a visit to a side character that results with people dancing on the roof, and adventure with labourers in London. Also, as in the original, Mary Poppins comes to the Banks’ household to save Mr. Banks. However, Mr. Banks is in fact George Banks, the boy from the original grown into what most children fear; their parents.
Thankfully, Marshall doesn’t just copy the story structure of the original but the tone as well. Mary Poppins Returns presents a world of pure imagination (sorry, wrong one), and invites everyone in; disregard the grim world outside and believe in the impossible. Each song all have an important message to give; like “A Cover Is Not the Book” or “Turning Turtle” which all say to not assume the worst and to see the world from someone else’s perspective. Or “Can You Imagine That?” and “Nowhere to Go but Up” which get to the crux of the film; things suck and people suck because they’ve lost their imagination and hope.
While entertaining and meaningful, the songs and movie have immense heart, delivered by the children and Ben Whishaw as Mr. Banks. Suffering a devastating lost, Whishaw’s relationship with the children is strained. That kind of struggle and loss is on full display in a heart-wrenching and tear-jerking number called “A Conversation”, all sold by Whishaw’s excellent performance. The children themselves, who have to take on the role of parents, bordered on annoying, but are simply naïve and even go on their own emotional arc that most young actors would struggle to perform.
While the Banks family bring the heart, Blunt is the true star who brings the sass and pompousness needed to a role made famous by the Queen of sass, Julie Andrews. A simple arch of an eyebrow, or smirk of the lip brings a giddy laugh to all audiences. Her back-and-forth with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Jack is again, reminiscent of Mary and Bert in the original, but just with a slightly better, bad cockney accent. Miranda is as expected a musical tour de force, performing intricating dance routines while singing in his iconic spoken, rap style. However, his story with Jane Banks is flat and feels like half a story is told even though the chemistry between the two is as joyous as the rest of the film.
In mimicking the original, the film follows the same short comings, such as Colin Firth’s moustache twirling villain who is the manager of the bank (aside: there is an odd message about long-term investment in the banks paying off, which feels at odds with the movie vilifying the banks). Or characters and scenes that are there for no reason other than enjoyment such as Meryl Streep’s, cartoonish Russian cousin.
Mary Poppins Returns is positively supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; Blunt is practically perfect in every way. Whishaw brings the heart alongside the children, and Miranda is the musical powerhouse you would expect from the powerhouse behind Hamilton. If you want to escape reality, come on a jolly holiday with Mary.