MOVIE: MARY POPPINS RETURNS
STARRING: EMILY BLUNT; LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA; BEN WISHAW; EMILY MORTIMER
DIRECTED BY: ROB MARSHALL
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Mary Poppins Returns, but that doesn't mean it's the same old Mary. Throughout this review, I will use adjectives, such as bright, whimsical, and delightful to describe the experience of going back to London and following the adventures of the lovable nanny, with a bag full of surprises. I enjoyed Mary Poppins Returns, directed by Rob Marshall (Into the Woods, Chicago), and starring Emily Blunt in the title role, who is tasked with attempting to fill the unfulfillable shoes of Julie Andrews. It's fun and beautiful to look at, which will leave all families happy as they leave the theater. What they won't be doing is humming the tunes. Mary Poppins Returns is a fancy new continuation to the 1964 classic, creates memories for a new audience, but can't hold the umbrella that the original Mary Poppins flew in on.
The best way to describe the plot of Mary Poppins Returns is that it's similar to the first one, but with slight adjustments. Mary (Blunt) returns to 17 Cherry Tree Lane, with London in the middle of a great recession, a grown-up Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw) is struggling without his recently deceased wife, and he does not have enough money to keep his three children fed. A pair of lawyers arrive with papers, giving Michael 5-days to come up with money to keep their house, leaving it up to Mary, friendly lamp lighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) and the three (mature for their age) children to find a way to stop mean Mr. Wilkins (Colin Firth) from giving the house to the bank.
Along the way, we get plenty of familiar beats, all charming for sure. The bright, eye-popping colors, magical sequences involving Mary and the children, especially when they take a dive into a bathtub that turns into a delightful sea adventure (Bedknobs and Broomsticks anyone?). A broken bowl with lively paintings on the side, come to life, reviving the enjoyable mixture of Disney animation and live-action actor sequence, something that the original did better, but gets an A for effort. Not to mention, everyone involved, Miranda's Hamilton-style crooning, Firth's quietly wicked villain, and of course Blunt who shines, all handing us a spoonful of smiles as the adventure moves along.
I found Mary Poppins Returns as an example of a musical where the music's not great, but the movie is still good. What's missing is the uniqueness of a “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, or the catchy notes of “Jolly Holiday”, whisking us away, while Dick Van Dyke danced circles around a group of penguins. Unlike A Star is Born, which had me racing to listen to the entire soundtrack, and humming Shallow from the minute I left my seat, I couldn't hum you a single tune from Mary Poppins Returns. The music from Marc Shaiman has a grasp on the bouncy tunes, but fails in the melody department. Or maybe I just desperately missed Julie Andrews?
None of the blame could be placed on Emily Blunt, who carries herself with the same amount of cheer and gravitas that Andrews portrayed. The screenplay from David Magee, Marshall, and John DeLuca however, sadly sidelines her too much. The majority of the action involves Miranda's singing, the children racing to save a stolen kite, and elaborate set pieces that include beautiful costumes, extravagant sets, and other surprises along the way.
Mary Poppins has returned, but is it for the better? I can't completely say. Emily Blunt is more than worthy of praise and of this role. Maybe with a second listen I will grow to like the songs. I at least got on board with those kind messages, such as “seeing things from a different side” or “finding your child-like imagination”. And if those themes don't cheer you up, I'm sure the charm of Mary Poppins will make you so happy, you'll be flying as high as a kite, up to the highest point.
Written by: Leo Brady