A joyful holiday treat that doesn't best the original yet offers its own delights.
Mary Poppins Returns
Director: Rob Marshall (Chicago)
Screenplay: David Magee (Life of Pi)
Cast: Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Ralph Breaks the Internet)
Runtime: 2hr 10 min
By: John DeSando
“Perhaps we've learned when day is done, some stuff and nonsense could be fun!” Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt)
Mary Poppins Returns is indeed fun, so much so that I encourage the family to enjoy one of the few holiday films I found this season truly family friendly. A couple of the songs are catchy and plot-perfect, the usual crisis in these musical comedies is to be expected, and the acting and singing by the two leads, Blunt and Lin-Manual Miranda as Jack, are expert, as to be expected from Disney.
The Banks family, grown up since 1964’s Mary Poppins, is threatened by foreclosure, so Mary Poppins returns to help them. Surprisingly, though, Mary does not much except turn back time to help them avoid missing the deadline for giving up the home. Otherwise the savvy three kids are perfectly fine, thank you, to deal with the bank and disconsolate dad (Ben Wishaw).
What makes this standard kid-oriented musical so appealing is its willingness to indulge the creative visuals such as the bathtub scene (Aquaman pay attention) and the balloon sequence, where a cameo by famous TV star Angela Lansbury lightens the mise en scene with optimism. As she leads the ensemble in “Nowhere to go but up,” we are reminded of the recurring Disney theme of childhood joys at all ages. Dick Van Dyke’s cameo is superlative, including a little soft shoe, to remind us that even the elderly have the power to transform and that the film would have benefitted from more of him and less of the gloomy house- repossession motif.
Mary Poppins Returns is a pleasant holiday treat, mildly creative but hip enough with its graphics, knowing kids, and stern Mary to make for fun on its own or friendly argument contrasting it with the original. They both are impressive, but the first has the advantage of originality and Julie Andrews. Emily Blunt probably knew she couldn’t best that icon, so she offers us a fetching Mary we’d have loved to nanny us.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com