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Review: Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns
6 10

PLOT: When the grown-up Banks children (Ben Whislaw & Emily Mortimer) are faced with losing their family home to an unscrupulous bank manager (Colin Firth), Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to save the day.

REVIEW: I suspect I’m too much of a cynic for MARY POPPINS RETURNS. A movie like this demands a certain kind of surrender, and its clear right from the old-fashioned opening titles that director Rob Marshall is bent on making a movie that’s slavishly devoted to the spirit of the original. But, here’s a controversial thought – the original MARY POPPINS, while fine, is hardly the best musical from that era. It’s nothing compared to star Julie Andrews’s own follow-up the next year, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and I suspect that most audience’s fondness for it related more to nostalgia and the indisputable aplomb Julie Andrews tackled the role with (in her big screen debut).

All of this helps explain why the sequel, MARY POPPINS RETURNS, while cute, is hardly the new classic it’s already being pegged as by some. Like the original, it benefits tremendously from a powerhouse star turn by the person playing Mary, in this case, an incredible Emily Blunt, but it’s still ultimately just an OK musical, and not even as memorable as last year’s THE GREATEST SHOWMAN.

Part of the blame may lie with director Rob Marshall. An established hand at musicals, his movies tend to feel a little conservative in their staging (save for CHICAGO – his first and best film), although this probably makes him exactly the kind of person Disney wants at the helm. While an improvement over INTO THE WOODS, thanks to having a cast that can actually sing, MARY POPPINS RETURNS is often a tad dull, and none of the songs really pop off the screen, even if they’re sung well and relatively pleasant (the work of Marc Shaiman).

Thankfully, what Poppins does have are two great leads. Blunt has always struck me as a logical successor to Julie Andrews, and she proves to have a nice singing voice if it can’t help but lack the range the great Andrews brought to the part. There’s only one Julie Andrews, but Blunt does better than anyone could reasonably expect, especially when she’s not singing, as she aces Poppins’s haughty/loving vibe.

Lin-Manuel Miranda also makes an impression as the Cockney lamp-lighter who befriends the younger Banks children (the sons and daughter of Whislaw’s now-widowed Michael) and carries a torch for the older grown-up Banks, suffragette Jane (Emily Mortimer). Miranda has an amazing voice and sinks his teeth into the part, no doubt knowing this could expose him to an even bigger international audience than “Hamilton” did (imagine parts of the world where Hamilton-mania haven’t hit?). He’s got real star quality, and does a nice job with the accent, giving it a little extra push to make it larger-than-life, but never quite pulling a Dick Van Dyke (who has a nice cameo).

Otherwise, the premise is fine, if familiar. Colin Firth plays a pretty generic baddie, and the whole premise of the Banks’s family losing their home is never as engaging as it should be. The movie only really comes close to excellence in one scene, an extended animated sequence that pays tribute to the original. Otherwise, it’s all pretty routine, although Dion Beebe’s cinematography deserves some attention.

Again, I might just be too much of a cynic to wholeheartedly fall for MARY POPPINS RETURNS, and given the award nominations it’s racking up, clearly people like it. To me, it already feels hugely overrated, but it does prove one thing – Emily Blunt can seemingly do no wrong.

Source: JoBlo.com

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