Sunday, December 23, 2018

Mary Poppins Returns

Today I saw Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The Banks children need some assistance. Michael (Ben Wishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are going to lose the family house to the bank if they don't come up with its full value because Michael repeatedly forgot to pay the mortgage.

The mean banker (Colin Firth, playing against type) doesn't want them to find the missing share certificates that will save them because he's hungry for more property. Out of the sky, Mary Poppins (Blunt) arrives to save the day.

Blunt is fantastic, as is lamplighter Jack (Miranda) and if only there were more of those two in the film, perhaps it could've met my expectations, but alas it did not.

The positives? The film is visually stunning. The sequences that include animation (the bath, my favorite) are nothing short of brilliant, with bright colors popping like a Target commercial and crisp, beautiful illustrations to match. This is the only place where, due to technology, the present-day film surpasses the classic.

Also great are the cameos by Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury and Meryl Streep. Each gets an ample amount of time to do their thing and they all, of course, do it well.

The issues? The "magic" is few and far between. We feel it in the opening sequence with Jack singing about London; when Mary emerges from the clouds; when the kids dive into their first psychedelic-ish experience (in the bathtub); when the lamplighters do their dance near the end. But that's about it. The songs aren't really that memorable (through no fault of the singers) and way too much time is spent dwelling on the looming bank deadline.

While I'm on the topic of time: This film did not need to be as long as it was. It could have easily been a 90-minute delight. But no ... sequences drag on (I'm looking at you broken bowl) and character development somersaults until we're sick of hearing Michael yell and of watching the kids lose track of Georgie (Joel Dawson).

Also frustrating is the romance that is teased between Jack and Jane for the duration of the film, but never truly realized. They make a cute couple—why not give us that one?

All in all, the message is lovely and if it sparks a new generation of kids to go back and see what the original was all about, then it was worth it.

If you're hungry for a happy ending, then go forth and enjoy. But if you're looking for something transcendent, you may come away wishing for more.


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