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Mary Poppins Returns relies on the magic of its classic forebear to cast a familiar -- but still solidly effective -- family-friendly spell.
All Critics (332)
| Top Critics (39)
| Fresh (261)
| Rotten (71)
| DVD (1)
I'm usually not a big fan of Rob Marshall but everything about this is seamless.
This seamless blend of old and new is typical of Marshall's approach. Using the original film as his template, he's honed it and updated it, taking care to strike plenty of nostalgic notes en route.
The real problem is the film's failure to do its own magic and give life to what's on screen.
It's well crafted, well acted, and features some terrific live-action/animation combos. But it never quite achieves liftoff, which is a big problem for a musical -- especially this musical... Still, I suppose momentary joy is better than no joy at all.
I found this sequel deeply slumping, not to mention unnecessary, unmagical and often unfunny. The misuse of talent is what slumped me the most.
I loved it-and while that doesn't mean I can ignore its problems, I left it feeling that a little something had been restored to me rather than taken away.
It functions as both a sweet nostalgia trip and a fun film that works quite well on its own merits. Whatever its flaws, the film presents a world audiences will be happy to get lost in.
For anyone who grew up with Julie Andrews as the ultimate nanny, "Mary Poppins Returns" is a bittersweet affair.
'Mary Poppins Returns' shines with greater intensity thanks especially to a splendid Emily Blunt. [Full Review in Spanish]
You can't compare one with the other, but overall I think Disney did a truly good job with its use of the classic animation and the songs.
Even cynics of this formula will leave the theater feeling thankful for the chance to engage with a delightful spectacle rather than a pointless retread.
Mary Poppins Returns is a timely movie that finds hope in the darkest and foggiest of times, even if it's not exactly perfect in every way.
Disney's 60s beloved classic - stolen from its dumbstruck creator, who was then vilified by the thief - gets an update for a new generation. "Magic is real" it suggests ("we NEVER said that," wink, wink "pish posh!"), just as the first one did, with plenty of Brit music hall style numbers stomping throughout, and hidden bits of sneaky mementos liberally sprinkled for the Boomers who saw it the first time around to secretly find. Only this time, given modern times, Poppins curiously spends a great deal of time in the mirror. The tradition continues then if traditions are simply that which we do more than once, setting the stage, as it were, for more to come. Rousing.
The magic of the original film gives place to mostly lifeless Broadway-esque spectacle - unfocused, repetitious and with songs that pretty much sound all alike. Besides, Emily Blunt doesn't have the presence and charisma that the character requires, and her Mary Poppins can be really annoying.
Many people believe movies from years ago don't seem to age well, but I've never bought into that notion. Personally, if it doesn't hold up in terms of today's standards, then it simply deserves to be called a product of its time. Mary Poppins has become that for me. I love watching the original film, but even I have to admit that being released over 50 years ago is a bit of a stretch when you hope something holds up. In the early days of visual effects, it truly shot for the stars, and for its time, there is no denying that. I had high hopes for this 2018 sequel in Mary Poppins Returns, due to the fact that movies have endless possibilities in terms of visual effects nowadays. In short, this is a movie well-worth making, but I don't quite think it will be among everyone's favourites of the year or anything like that.
Picking up many years after the original, Mary Poppins Returns sees the return of the classic (titular) character as she once again arrives to serve the Banks children. Now fully grown with children of their own, Michael has been taking care of his kids with his sister Jane after the passing of his wife. Arriving just on time to relieve some stress from Michael, Mary Poppins becomes the new nanny to these children, taking them on fantastically fun adventures. Filled with great musical numbers and cameos that would brighten anyone's day, this is a late sequel that definitely deserved the spotlight. That being said, this movie isn't perfect in my eyes.
Disney films have begun forming this new formula that seems to string across many of their franchises lately. I'm not saying I dislike this, but the similarities are a little too familiar, to me at least. The original cast has grown up and the film is passing the baton to the newer generation. That's definitely one way of continuing your franchise, but that can't be done again decades from now, because it'll probably just feel tired. I could be wrong about that (which I have been many times), but that's just how I see it. Where this movie undeniably steals everyone's hearts is in its cast and overall atmosphere. With a few casting changes, this movie could've been a disaster, but not this time.
To start, I've always been a fan of Emily Blunt as an actress. I think she has tremendous talent and I was ready to call her one of the best of 2018 when I watched A Quiet Place at the beginning of the year, but that opinion has slightly altered. Mary Poppins Returns is the film that she's been destined to be cast in. Many people said that nobody could touch Julie Andrews, and while I wouldn't say her performance is better, it seems as though Julie Andrews came back through time and performed this character again. Emily Blunt is a true wonder on-screen here. From the incredible sequences involving Lin-Manuel Miranda to emotional moments involving Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer, everything about this film was impeccably cast. For that reason alone, I enjoyed this movie from start to finish.
In the end, Marry Poppins Returns may not feature as many memorable songs and some may even seem like slight rehashes of the previous ones, but it's great for all ages to experience. From life lessons involving death in the family to just pure silliness in the land of cartoons, this movie provides everything that kids should be experiencing, all at once. If you're a fan of the original film or simply want to smile at the theatre, I definitely recommend checking out Mary Poppins Returns. This very late sequel was worth the wait. I don't believe it will be remembered as a classic in 20 years from now, but that shouldn't deter you for a second.
I have no real investment in Mary Poppins as a character or the original 1964 movie, so I was expecting to walk out of Mary Poppins Returns with a shrug, likely finding it middling at worse. I was unprepared for what I endured, and endured is the accurate statement. Mary Poppins Returns is an insane movie and one of the most maddening and painful experiences in a theater I've had all year, and no number of spoonfuls of sugar will help this bad medicine go far enough down.
It's the "Great Slump," a.k.a. Depression, in London and the Banks children have grown up. Michael (Ben Whishaw) has three young children of his own and he's struggling to maintain his job at the bank and be the father they need in the wake of his wife's death. His sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer), has moved into help but it's still not enough. Enter that famous nanny, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), who takes it upon herself to watch over the children, help them through the grieving process, and explore the outer reaches of London with some help from some friends, chiefly Jack (Lin Manuel-Miranda). The Banks family is in danger of losing their home to the head of the bank (Colin Firth) unless they can find a specific title of shares that will grant them a wealth denied their adult lives.
This movie felt like it was eight hours long and I had no sense of how much time was passing, mostly because of its misshaped structure and general lack of pacing. Mary Poppins Returns feels like it could have been renamed The Tony Awards: The Movie. It's one unrelated song-and-dance number after another, rarely building from the previous one, and so it feels like an eternal televised awards show that just shuffles from one set piece to the next, never providing a sense of direction or finality. Things just happen in this movie and then different things happen but rarely do they feel consequential. This makes the film feel endless because you have no real concept of progression. It's just another unrelated song into an unrelated magical realm that doesn't really seem like it matters, and then we're off to the next. I think some part of me is still trapped watching Mary Poppins Returns, never allowed to leave.
This would be mitigated if the songs were any good. There are over a dozen and not a single one is memorable. It was mere minutes after leaving the theater that I pressed myself into trying to hum any one of them, and I could not. They instantly vanish from your memory because there are no melodies or interesting production aspects that cause them to stand out. They assault you with their blandness and staid orchestration. They're a careful recreation of an older sounding, 1950s musical, an antiquated sound that doesn't have the same traction today. The only way you can remember one of these songs is if you have a traumatic experience forever linked to one of these mediocre, warbling collection of sounds.
There are two astoundingly peculiar songs. "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" is a big ensemble number involving the lamp lighters lead by Miranda. However, the song reference is clearly evocative of the Timothy Leary "trip the light fantastic" comment about LSD. It's strange to think this is only a coincidence when the lamp lighters are dubbed "learies." It's not a good song to begin with and the performance literally involves men on BMX bicycles flying around and doing tricks. How is any of this happening in a reported Disney family film? The Meryl Streep "Turning Turtle" song may be the most excruciating five minutes I've sat through for all 2018. It's just embarrassing to watch and made me honestly think of the children's movie disaster, The Ooogieloves, where you watch once proud actors debase themselves and their legacies in depressing fashion. That's the level of dread and mourning I had watching Streep slog through a Bela Lugosi accent and dance upside down. It has to be seen to be believed but you shouldn't ever have to see this. I have a new appreciation for the La La Land songs.
The continual removal of stakes robs the movie of feeling like anything onscreen genuinely matters. Mary Poppins is a magical creature without clearly defined rules or limits. At any point she might simply have the solution to a problem that she wasn't sharing. Take for instance the ending (spoilers for the duration of this paragraph, but really, who cares?) where the lamp lighters and the Banks family race to ole Big Ben to literally "turn back time" by adjusting the clock hands. The lamp lighters use their ladders to free climb the face of the clock to the very top, only to be undone by not being able to reach the minute hand at it nears twelve. Then all of a sudden Mary Poppins scoffs to herself and flies up to the clock face to adjust it. If she could do this the whole time why did these very mortal men risk their lives in this exercise? I think Mary Poppins may be a cruel god (more on this later). The concluding dash to ensure the Banks family can keep their home involves not one, not two, but three deus ex machinas, a "Turducken of ex machinas" as my pal Ben Bailey termed it. Ultimately all of their actions do not even matter because the film routinely provides an unknown escape route that invalidates their efforts. It turns out, in the end, they weren't even going to lose their home thanks to (at my best guess) a magical bird head that is best friends with the head of a bank and who never mentioned this before, the same head of the bank who has just been off in what appears to be an adjacent room for whatever reason and that also knows that Michael Banks has accrued a hefty fortune from a childhood investment, and has never mentioned it as well except in this crucial moment. Why, why does Mary Poppins Returns do this? Why does it present stakes or the illusion of stakes only to sabotage them every time?
Is Mary Poppins really a creature of good or does her need to be loved prove her a fickle god who demands adulation, subservience, and obedience? When Mary Poppins travels from world to world, some live action, some animated, all fanciful, every inhabitant seems to know this woman and love her unconditionally despite her prevalent smarm. The bigger question is do these magical worlds exist independent of Mary Poppins? Is there a pocket universe in existence on the side of a chipped porcelain bowl, or did it only come into existence when Mary Poppins decided it would be a lovely vacation spot? If so, that means she is calling into being a throng of adoring creatures that exist to validate her impulsive whims. She is a selfish god that demands an audience of servants and sycophants, not unlike the Javier Bardem character in Darren Aronofsky's polarizing polemic, mother!.
The actors acquit themselves fine for their roles. Blunt (A Quiet Place) and Miranda (Moana) will still be charming performers even when given substandard material. Blunt holds your attention with her prissy, schoolmarm persona, balancing the audience's memories of Julie Andrews without going into parody. Her singing (as also evidenced from 2014's Into the Woods) is above average and can help make some of the songs more tolerable to listen to. Miranda is a talent bursting with charisma and range, which makes it all the more frustrating to squeeze him into the narrow confines of a cockney scamp. He does get a rapping reprise in "A Cover is Not the Book" with a group of cartoon penguins. The stranger element is that it really feels like Miranda's character wants to have sex with Mary Poppins. They slot him as a forced romantic option for Mortimer's underwritten sister, but his eyes are clearly set for the woman who bosses people around and has magic in her fingers. He remembers her when he was a boy chimney sweep and I think he's been fantasizing about her every day since. Plus, she hasn't aged in 30 years.
Mary Poppins Returns is a bizarre artifact of a displaced time, taking great pains to recreate a style but without providing a purpose or sense of feeling beyond emulation. I don't know who this movie is for besides the hardcore fans of the original. There are dancing dolphins, talking dogs, bathtub portals, an upside down house, flying balloons, union protests, Angelina Lansbury or an animatronic lookalike, and there's lots of songs you will be unable to recall and a story that repeatedly removes any stakes or grounding from beneath itself so that the movie never feels firm or purposeful. There were several points where I just wanted to throw up my hands and ask, "What am I watching?" I still don't know. Mary Poppins Returns is a movie musical that is nothing short of super-cali-fragil-awful.
Nate's Grade: D+
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