Director: Rob Marshall
Mary Poppins is the quintessential Disney musical, the classic of classics that showed us what entertainment could be. The fact that Mary Poppins Returns is a throwback to that style has thrown critics for a loop, as they scramble to justify their desire to enjoy a film they feel they should and the confusion brought on by a modern movie attempting an old school format. This isn’t a Beauty and the Beast remake, this isn’t a look from another angle like Maleficent, this is a sequel in the exact vein of a 1960s extravaganza, and that’s not perhaps what most critical minds were anticipating. But find the glorious history within this feature and you’ll find a loveliness that doesn’t come along that often.
Sensing that the Banks family is in trouble again, Mary Poppins returns to lend a helping hand, and to add a whimsy that is not often sought after but is frequently needed. The Banks children, Jane and Michael, have grown up, and are having problems of their own. Jane is an activist like her mother, and Michael is a banker like his father, but that’s not his true calling. He’s an artist, but the death of his wife has left him as the sole breadwinner, and he’s had to abandon his principles in order to support his family. He has three children to look after, John, Anabel, and Georgie, but when the old family house is repossessed all of them must start to imagine a life away from the home they all have loved. Mary knows just how to help, but was she in time, can her friend Jack lend some support as well, or will the Banks’ future turn as grey as the London sky?
I love the original Mary Poppins tale, I read the books as a child, and I thoroughly enjoyed this latest piece, a lovely revisiting of the classic style that I grew up watching and a marvelous tale of family that’s impossible to be cynical toward when you’re sitting next to your own children. I recognize that as a part of my critical outlook now that I have kids; I can’t watch a movie with them and be totally unaffected by the heart, no matter how cheesy, it gets me in ways these days that it never would have before. But I’m willing to defend myself this time around; Mary Poppins Returns is not just for moms and dads, but anyone who enjoyed Mary Poppins and was looking for a return to normal, a Disney redo that’s more than a simple money grab.
Rob Marshall obviously had a love for musicals that he was looking to pour into this latest one, and his passion is obvious throughout. The songs are grand, the music is sweet, the dance numbers are merry; this is what we used to get that we don’t get often enough now, and it’s lovely to see it produced when perhaps something different would have made more at the box office. You know Miranda is on board for a quality musical, and Blunt has been there, done that, so they were the perfect pair to bring on board. But, surprisingly, it was Whishaw who took the spotlight and shone, his character was excellent, as was his singing and his presence. The kids were cute, the animation was simple, and there were enough nods without being steals for fans of the first film to point to and appreciate. Some cool cameos, some nice throwbacks, and a couple memorable songs; the sequel won’t be replacing the original any time soon, but critics aren’t watching it from the same point as I was, or else they would have seen the magic as well.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆