film & game reviews, the retro way.
Dick Van Dyke
Nearly 55 years after Julie Andrews first landed with her trusty umbrella, Disney's good nanny witch is back in Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt taking on the beloved, iconic character and leading a brand new musical adventure at the heart of the Banks family.
The story follows a grown-up Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael's three children Annabel, John and Georgie as they attempt to save their home from being repossessed by the bank. After a flying kite mishap, Mary Poppins returns to look after the children. With the help of friendly lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), they journey to fantasy lands inside bowls and into baths, encounter off-beat characters and take on the bank's president (played by Colin Firth).
A sequel to such a popular classic was always going to have its work cut out, not only because a new actress would be playing Mary Poppins and she would always be compared to Julie Andrews' performance, but capturing the charm and tone of the original film while not falling into the trap of just making a retread would also be a must. The good news is that Mary Poppins Returns certainly provides some original ideas and director Rob Marshall tries hard to balance out paying homage to the original film and P. L. Travers' work with bringing something new to the table.
The film understands the key to keeping this project afloat in that it keeps things simple and focuses the fantasy sequences and musical numbers on very specific, small things. The children's fears (getting lost in the dark, failing to save the house) along with their dislikes (bath time) and dreams (floating with balloons) take centre stage and this captures Mary Poppins' mission very well. The animated sequences are a lot of fun, the cameos by the wonderful Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury are a delight, Meryl Streep's Topsy scene is a lot more enjoyable than Ed Wynn's in the original and the film looks great overall.
Unfortunately, it never quite reaches the level of charm and captures the timeless quality you'd expect from a Mary Poppins film and, as hard as it tries, it still feels like a bit of a retread. Emily Blunt is likeable in the role yet her performance just doesn't feel as genuine as Andrews'. The songs pretty much all sound like "Spoon Full Of Sugar" and, though the musical numbers are fine, they can be pretty stagey and sometimes, ironically, lack imagination.
This new Mary Poppins has its moments but it's altogether a mixed bag: it can be charming and fun but also quite forced and somewhat tedious. Die-hard Disney fans should have a decent time with it, though it's hard to imagine that its impact will be as lasting as the original's.
Charming at times but hit-and-miss.