Everyone’s favourite flying nanny is back and dare I say it, she’s better than ever.
I have a confession to make. I have never liked Mary Poppins. It always felt incredibly dated to me and while I do appreciate mixing of animation and live action and how revolutionary this must have been at the time, it always felt like the film was at an arms length from me.
However, I have a weak spot for Emily Blunt. In my eyes, Emily can do no wrong. From the casting announcement to the trailers, it was clear that Emily Blunt was going to be the perfect Mary Poppins. And she mostly is. I prefer Blunt’s portrayl of Poppins, she’s much more fun to watch. I just wish the film served her better.
The film follows the grown up Banks children, Michael and Jane. Michael’s wife has died and the family is in deep financial trouble and about to lose their house. Michael’s children are far too mature for their ages and when the family must find some important papers to save the house, the kids seem like the adults of the household. The Banks’ need Mary Poppins once again to put their lives in order.
The film does so much right; it’s colourful, beautifully filmed and full of magic. It’s a joy to watch and Blunt nails her portrayal of Mary Poppins. It’s difficult to do your own spin on such a beloved character, who was played by Julie Andrews, but Blunt’s Poppins is more stern and playful, in equal measure.
It’s too bad the film is so forgettable. None of the songs are catchy enough to become ear worms that follow your bus ride home and while listening to the soundtrack on the walk home, none of them transported me back into the magical world of Poppins and co. Which is a shame because Blunt can certainly sing and dance and she is visibly having a blast. Seeing an actor enjoy playing their part is a rare sighting and letting it shine through in her performance Blunt adds another layer of magic into Mary Poppins.
Lin Manuel Miranda is just another version of Dick Van Dyke’s Bert, this time named Jack. While the musical star does just fine in the role, it’s hard to imagine why director Rob Marshall would stick this close to the original film’s structure and tricks. It all seems like a missed opportunity to create a new classic, something exciting and different. Musicals are hip and cool again and Mary Poppins has all the right ingredients, but somehow it never quite comes together in a satisfying way.
The film isn’t without some hightlights. It’s biggest and catchiest song Trip a Little Light Fantastic is a fantastic sequence with some great choreography and it lets Miranda really show his chops as a musical star. The sequence happening inside a bowl is also fantastic from start to finish with its’ two songs and great visuals. It’s too bad the film felt like it had to borrow from the first film’s animation. A scene like this could have been innovative and exciting, but ends up feeling used and tired, because they did it 50 years ago.
Mary Poppins Returns is worth a watch just for Emily Blunt’s joyous performance and it’s dazzling visuals. It’s not the film I hoped it would be and it fails as a satisfying sequel, but it holds its own magic and is perfectly fine in every way.