Both of us have fond memories of watching the classic movie Mary Poppins as children. She is a well loved character and it is always fun to see her in the parks. When it was announced a new Mary Poppins movie would be released in 2018 it became one of our tops films we couldn’t wait to see. There has been a lot of build up and also a lot of questions, the biggest being “how do you follow up to such an iconic movie?” We were invited to attend an early screening last night to figure out if Disney’s latest sequel is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Official Film Synopsis:
In Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” an all new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt (“A Quiet Place,” “The Girl on the Train”) stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and LinManuel Miranda (“Hamilton,” “Moana”) plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.
“Mary Poppins Returns” is directed by Rob Marshall (“Into the Woods,” “Chicago”). The screenplay is by David Magee (“Life of Pi”) and the screen story is by Magee & Rob Marshall & John DeLuca (“Into the Woods”) based upon the Mary Poppins Stories by PL Travers. The producers are John DeLuca, p.g.a., Rob Marshall, p.g.a. and Marc Platt, p.g.a. (“La La Land”) with Callum McDougall serving as executive producer. The music score is by Marc Shaiman (“Hairspray”) and the film features all new original songs with music by Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman (“Smash”) and Shaiman. The film also stars Ben Whishaw (“Spectre”) as Michael Banks; Emily Mortimer (“Hugo”) as Jane Banks; Julie Walters (“Harry Potter” films) as the Banks’ housekeeper Ellen; Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and introducing Joel Dawson as the Banks’ children, with Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) as Fidelity Fiduciary Bank’s William Weatherall Wilkins; and Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”) as Mary’s eccentric cousin, Topsy. Angela Lansbury appears as the Balloon Lady, a treasured character from the PL Travers books and Dick Van Dyke is Mr. Dawes, Jr., the retired chairman of the bank now run by Firth’s character. 2
PL Travers first introduced the world to the no-nonsense nanny in her 1934 children’s book “Mary Poppins.” However, the subsequent adventures of Mary Poppins remained only on the pages of the seven other PL Travers’ books…until now. “Mary Poppins Returns” is drawn from the wealth of material in these additional books. The film takes place in 1930s Depression-era London 24 years after the first film was set. Michael Banks works for the same financial institution that employed his father and still lives at 17 Cherry Tree Lane with his three children, Annabel, John and Georgie and their housekeeper Ellen. Carrying on in her mother’s tradition, Jane Banks campaigns for workers’ rights and provides a helping hand to Michael’s family. When the family suffers a personal loss, Mary Poppins magically re-enters their lives and with Jack’s help, brings joy and wonder back into their home.
I have to admit I had really high expectations for this film. The previews looked to be full of whimsical visuals, a stacked cast, and I couldn’t wait to see the next chapter of this story. Mary Poppins Returns takes place 20 years later with the Banks children grown up, and Michael having three children of his own. It seems to be an especially grey time in London and the Banks family has been dealing with many hardships. Then suddenly Mary Poppins, in true Mary Poppins fashion, appears from the sky and is here to help the next generation by bringing some magic and happiness into their lives with some impossible, fun filled adventures along the way.
The movie is technically a sequel, but leans very heavily on the original for inspiration. There are many characters and scenes that seem like the same thing repeated, with an updated look. The “Step and Time” chimney sweep number has an equivilent “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” with dancing lamp lighters for instance. There are some nostalgic moments and nods to the old, but it also seems they tried to take things a little further and even more non sensical than before. Dancing penguins are traded up for a whole zoo of animals, nursery parlor tricks are upgraded to an underwater ocean scene, etc. Some costumes were very elaborate gorgeous at times as well. I absolutely loved that there was old style animation incorporated into the film. Disney actually brought over 70 animators (some even came out of retirement!) to work on creating these scenes.
There were a ton of musical numbers with very impressive lyrics, almost like Broadway rapping at times. There were some toe tapping tunes but I’m still not sure if anything will quite live up to the simply catchiness of the Sherman brothers original hits. For some reason, even with all the new, grander effects, I still found the story very slow at times. It is obvious a ton of effort was put into this movie (great casting, visuals, music, etc.) but at the end of the day it somehow didn’t quite wow me like I was hoping. I’m thinking it may be one of those situations where you can try your best, but the original is just too magical to try to compete with. Mary Poppins Returns was a good movie and very well done, and I would most likely watch it again. While I loved certain aspects of it, when it all came together and I left the theater I found myself saying “Ok, that was good.” rather than “That was absolutely amazing!”. While I still enjoyed the nostalgia, happiness, and creative effort, I just don’t think this will reach top hit level for me.
Mary Poppins Returns is a sequel but unfortunately doesn't build on the first iteration, it more so just recycles it. It would have been nice had they reached out beyond the original, even just a little bit, and not mirrored it so closely. It appears the filmmakers didn't want to stray too far as there are quite a few scenes that clearly give a nod to Mary Poppins or emulated them entirely but just changed a few minor details (looking at you lamplighter scene). However, if you enjoyed Mary Poppins, you will probably like this one.
I have read in multiple places that the plot was predictable. Sure, it probably was, but who cares? I didn't watch the movie to find out how the Banks family would save their house. I watched it for the various adventures the children go on with Mary Poppins. Those scenes were entertaining, especially the animated ones.
Speaking of Mary Poppins, I thought Emily Blunt was outstanding in this role. Especially considering Julie Andrews played it before her and how good of a job she did. The rest of the cast did a fine job as well. Also nice to see some cameos such as Dick Van Dyke who played a role in this film.
I truly wanted to love this movie, I just couldn't quite get there. That's not to say it is a bad film, far from it, but for some reason, I just couldn't really get into it. However, I would like to watch it again to see if my opinion changes, because I feel it might. It was a Monday night leading up to Christmas, being tired doesn’t help a movie if there are some slow bits. The biggest reason for this is because it felt just a little too long. There were a few musical numbers (lamp lighters and balloon scenes) that just seemed to outlast their entertainment usefulness. They probably could have trimmed about 15-20 minutes off the film and been perfect. Overall a good job, just not my favorite cup of tea.
The movie is best for: fans of the original Mary Poppins and musical lovers. Honestly most people will probably enjoy this whimsical and fun movie and dash of nostalgia.
View the official movie website.