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Does that spoon full of medicine go down just as well the second time around?
It’s rare to see 54 years pass between sequels but with Mary Poppins Returns we don’t necessarily get the immaculate flashback to the original that we may have wanted but we do get the old school musical throwback of a film that we needed.
In 1930s depression-era London, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now grown up, with Michael, his three children and their housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters), living on Cherry Tree Lane. After Michael suffers a personal loss, the enigmatic nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) re-enters the lives of the Banks family, and, along with the optimistic street lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), uses her unique magical skills to help the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives. Mary Poppins also introduces the children to a new assortment of colorful and whimsical characters, including her eccentric cousin, Topsy (Meryl Streep).
While we were actually a little taken aback by how honestly earnest Mary Poppins Returns it still succeeds as a delightful musical romp with some pretty good music and songs that at least come close to recapturing the magic of the Julie Andrews original.
Rob Marshall has settled nicely into the role of a slick helmer who can make some attractive fluff and that’s basically what Mary Poppins Returns is. Settling in strongly with our re-entry into London; Marshall leads with his best foot forward, staging a musical number; (Underneath the) Lovely London Sky with Lin-Manuel Miranda and he shows his genuine strength as a visual storyteller since he seemingly works better stringing a bunch of bold set pieces together, keeping the narrative buffer moments generally to a minimum. It all looks great and plays with real ease even though there’s a lot of material to get through it is never at any minute any kind of a slog or a pain. The script from David Magee is solid as Marshall also gets a screen story credit for working with Magee and frequent collaborator John DeLuca here to update this classic P.L. Travers yarn and while some of the plot points are a little clunky with a little too much padding on them it still has a pretty decent flow about it.
Sure, everything is pretty good here throughout but you still can’t shake the sensation that lightening in a bottle is never quite the same the second time around as we get fun, yet awkward cameos from the likes of Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury and Meryl Streep for some reason. You can be enjoyable and still kind of forced all at the same time and that’s basically Mary Poppins Returns in a nutshell, but that’s not to say that everyone wasn’t trying their very best.
Emily Blunt leans hard into the role of Mary Poppins capturing her best Julie Andrews cadence and it works pretty well. She takes it all very seriously but gets the occasional knowing moment of a wink to the camera; acknowledging how close to the line between tribute and camp she is straddling with this performance. However to her credit she really does give 110% and is fun to watch in the trappings of a movie musical as she can more then hold her own in the genre.
Lin-Manuel Miranda as our trusty lamplighter Jack really works as the most universally grounded performer of the bunch. He’s obviously not the lead, but he’s the anchor for all the musical numbers; especially the ones that work and has unmistakable affable charm that has served him so well in musical theatre and on the stages of Broadway. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer as the grown up kids from Mary’s first visit all those years ago do some great work as a couple of world weary adults who still have that sense of whimsy in their hearts but need a little help to find it again. Neither is terribly strong when they have a musical number to carry but their good enough to move everything along.
The picture and sound quality are stellar and especially the sound and colour on the 4K disc which really makes this world of Mary Poppins sparkle. There’s also a lovely tribute to Dick Van Dyke and the time he spent on set while shooting his role in the movie, a blooper reel, a quick break down of every musical number in the film, a deleted song ‘The Anthropomorphic Zoo’, a 23 minute behind the scenes of making of Mary Poppins Returns called ‘Practically Perfect’ along with some deleted scenes.
Ultimately, Mary Poppins Returns is good enough thanks to the over the top magnetic charm of both Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda but it does feel a hair short of ‘classic’ as it leans on the classic movie musical formula and tries to jam just a couple too many characters in a solid but still kind of simplistic plot.
- Directed by: Rob Marshall
- Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda
- Written by: David Magee, John DeLuca, Rob Marshall
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
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