Mary Poppins Returns
After 54 years, we get a sequel to the 1964 movie Mary Poppins. In the film, Mary Poppins, the former nanny of Jane and Michael Banks returns 25 years after the events of the first movie. The Banks family is at risk of losing their home and Mary returns to help Michael, Jane and Michael’s three kids through a difficult time.
The following article contains spoilers from this point on.
I’m sure that I’m not the only person who had grown up when they were a kid in the 1980s watching Mary Poppins. There were countless ways that I have seen or heard about this movie. Be it on a Disney VHS tape, the Disney Channel showing clips of the music on TV and any other way that were available to me at the time. What isn’t there to love about his movie? The music is, and characters are memorable, the story was fun, and Julie Andrews was “practically perfect in every way” as Mary Poppins. The sequel did have a lot to live up to as most of the original cast are either too old to reprise their roles, retired from acting, or passed away. The sequel is about two and a half generations passed since the original release, meaning that this movie would most likely need to bring in a new audience if they want to continue with the series. Unless you had watched this on VHS or DVD, Blu Ray or what format is available to you now, you may have no idea or even clue about what Mary Poppins is.
A brief history and background of the character, Mary Poppins is a series of children’s books written by P. L. Travelers. She is a magical English nanny who is blown in by the east wind to the Banks’ household to care for the children. While watching the children, she goes on many adventures and encounters with them. Walt Disney adapted this into a movie in 1964. While a box office and award-winning success, P. L. Travelers wasn’t happy with Disney’s film and the way that Mary and her story was portrayed. She took the rights away for the rest of her life. The Walt Disney Company got the rights back from her estate after she had passed away. This was also one of the reasons that this film took so long to come out.
I liked this movie. It felt like a true sequel to the original film and felt like it could have been possible to have been done just a few years after the original. The story and the effect and musical give the movie a feel of the 1960’s era Disney style of musical/movie. The Visual Effects did look more practical than computerize, which kept that tone in my head of it being a movie from the era of the ’60s instead of 2018. There is a very minor issue for me that this movie seems to be a template sequel of the original film. That is, if you put this movie on top of the original, all of the musical cues, story point, and characters can look to parallel each other. But I think that this movie can get away with this since it has been over 50 years from the original and most of the audience will be new to the series.
The story of the movie was fair. Michael, is now an adult and his wife had passed away. He still lives in his childhood home and has three Children, Annabel, John, and Georgie. Jane comes by to help Michael raise the children. Michael took a loan out from Fidelity Fiduciary Bank trying to make end’s meat during the 1930’s depression era London. His house is in danger of getting repossessed unless he can find the shares of the bank that his father had left him as the collateral. Bothered and distracted, Mary comes down to help out with the family. All the while going on adventures and watching out for Michael’s children Annabel, John, and Georgie. That is the whole story more or less and the end I’ll get to later. I went into this movie wanting to watch it for the music and the visual style more than I did the story, so it’s a pass from me.
Emily Blunt portrayed Mary Poppins. I’m sure everyone that watched the original movie will be comparing her performance to Julie Andrews, who made the role iconic and won an academy award for the performance. For the most part, I thought she did great. She kept the performance very monotone like a British nanny is probably perceived to be by anyone. Then suddenly, came alive with a song and a magical music number for the audience that came off as believable as she left the Banks’ kids in wonderment and disbelief. She held my attention and did have a strong presence whenever she was on screen, or the focus was on her. She was also very convincing of her “gaslighting” ways of telling the children that what they had done and witnessed with her, had never happened. I hope that Emily does come back on if they do sequels to reprise her role.
We do get some new characters like Jack, the lamplighter played by Lin-Manuel Miranda. He didn’t seem to have the charm of Burt or Dick van Dyke from the last movie and must have been put in for his musical prowess. This as far as I can tell was his first movie starring role, and it was a fair job on his part. William “Weatherall” Wilkins is the evil banker nephew and president of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank Mr. Dawes Jr. Who doesn’t really seem to have much of a motive for wanting the Banks’ home, and being the antagonist? The only other new characters of note to me are Topsy, Mary’s eccentric cousin that runs a fix-it shop in London. The Balloon Lady, who was in the first Mary Poppins book but not the movie. Even Dick Van Dyke returns playing Mr. Dawes Jr., the son of the banker he played from the first movie. This was a good cast overall.
The characters of Jane and Michael were alright. I was worried that Michael may have been written as some who followed in his father’s footsteps and mannerisms. There were moments it seemed like this was going to happen, but this never fully happened. I liked seeing the struggle of raising his kids, looking back on himself as a kid and whether what he saw when Mary Poppins was his nanny was real or not. The writers did miss out on connecting the audience with the original parents George and Winifred better to the kids. Jane became a labor organizer, someone who recruits groups of workers to unionize. Unless you saw the original movie, you may not understand why she might have done this in her life. Winifred, the distracted mother of Michael and Jane, was a member of the “Votes for Women” suffragette movement. While a minor plot point for both women, it showed that Jane did follow in her mother’s footsteps of fighting for a cause in their generation.
The kids in the film were OK. I didn’t think that they were very memorable and just came off as a bit generic. Annabel, John, and Georgie can be perceived as a more mature version of Michael and Jane. I only rather them being an unruly sort as the reason for Mary Poppins to have to help them. But the interactions with them and Mary were keen and kind. Even the adventures and music that they sang was charming enough for me. I wish that we got more of a reason as to why they needed Mary Poppins, as it felt that Michael needed them more than they did.
The music and the numbers, I enjoyed and thought were great. But, at the same time, are nowhere near as celebrated as the music from the original music. I’m going to guess that this music will need for time to be more memorable. I know that I shouldn’t compare the new ones, I enjoyed the song’s “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” “A Cover Is Not the Book,” “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky,” and “Can you Imagine That.” But those just seem to be the only standout tracks for me as the original movie and soundtrack seem to have many standout musical songs and moments, but also have forgettable songs.
Some musical moments weren’t bad, but I felt they were more, out of place. “A Cover Is Not The Book” is one such number. I thought it was a fun number and done well. But once it got towards the “dirty rascal” part Jack sang, it got modernized. It does still work because of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and he is probably this best person to do this kind of song, but the rap made me think this as more of Hamilton feel than a Mary Poppins song. Also, there were BMX style tricks during the end of “Trip A Little Light Fantastic” done by the Cockney lamplight dancers, which made it feel somewhat out of place and time than it did impressive. I was guessing this was to modernize it in a way and to amaze and keep the audience entertained and interested in the movie. I’m fine it this, but it didn’t need to be done. Doing this is the equivalent if the original Mary Poppins were putting in a 1960’s dance pop culture reference to get the audience’s attention. Imagine Mary dancing “The Freddie” or the Chimney-sweepers doing “The Shimmy” during the “Step in Time” music number as to what I’m trying to get at.
The end way how the Banks’ problem was solved is weird. After making it in to prove that they had the shares of the bank to save the house. Which was strange in itself. Michael and Jane spent most of the time in the movie looking for the shares certificates. Michael forgot that he drew a family picture on the share stock that Georgie just as scrap to fix Michael’s old kite. I feel he should have remembered that especially in the opening when he was looking for the certificate and found the portrait in the opening of the movie. I could’ve been fine with this, but the added another line that bothered me. Dawkes Jr said Michael’s father invested a tuppence after the events of Mary Poppins and it was more than enough to save the house and keep the shares of the bank. Umm, a tuppence wasn’t worth much, but somehow the bank invested it in twenty years enough to save the Banks’ house? I would be the equivalent of me putting $10 in the bank, and in twenty years, my house would be paid off. The money in a savings or investing it aside, the film should have just kept it as the shares saved the house and not the hidden invested or saved Tuppence ending.
The end of the first film Mary leaves “when the wind changes,” Symbolic of the change that George Banks had at the end of Mary Poppins. In this movie, Mary goes when “The door opens.” I can only guess that this is due to a new opportunity that Michael receives in life. But, is it just me or did it seem that Michael and Jane were the only ones who realized that she left? The kids ran into the house and seemed to forget about her. Mary spent more time with the kids, and Michael and Jane are the ones who say goodbye. It’s a strange way that was chosen to end the movie on.
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