Review – Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Let’s go fly a kite, Mary Poppins, up to the highest height, where the rest of everybody’s expectations for Mary Poppins Returns can be found.

It’s not a mystery as to why Disney might want to relive the glory days by revisiting one of their most successful and classic characters, especially in the current world of recreating Disney’s classic animated hits for a modern audience. That much is obvious. What’s not so obvious is why this film wasn’t just marketed or sold as a remake, as for the most part, that’s what it is…just without the original songs and some added fake mustaches, weird accents, and the songs themselves, while okay, are mostly forgettable and certainly not iconic. Let’s not forget that while cameos are nice to have, some cameos don’t make as much sense in a direct sequel as they would in an absolute remake.

It has been 55 years since the original film hit theaters, and in that time, nobody could come up with a story that doesn’t basically repeat history. We have a basic Cockney chimney sweeper, who may not be a chimney sweeper, but has an occupation in the same ranks and is Mary Poppin’s best adult friend. Two impressionable kids that need a nanny, their stern father with that hideous mustache, a plot-centric kite, that cartoon fantasy world, that upside down scene, and songs that, while containing different lyrics, serve very similar purposes and themes as the classic movie. The only thing that would’ve made this movie special was just giving in and officially remaking the first one altogether.

In Depression-era London, a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, along with Michael’s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.

Disney

PEOPLE – 9/20 (45%)

Acting – 1/4 | Characters – 3/4 | Casting – 1/4 | Importance – 2/4 | Chemistry – 2/4

As you can see, something about the people category just didn’t impress me, and that mostly came down to the acting and casting. The problem with this kind of movie, and a few like it (Solo: A Star Wars Story), you just have impossible shoes to fill, because it’s no longer just a character on the silver screen, but something symbiotic and synonymous with who plays it. In Solo, it was difficult to rank his performance without bias because Han Solo IS Harrison Ford and vice versa. Any one else attempting to play the part would never ever be able to meet that vision or expectation, and I believe the same can be said about Julie Andrews and Mary Poppins. I’d almost say that about Superman Returns, too, but that’s for another reason entirely. Brandon Routh was attempting to be Christopher Reeve in an official sequel to that series, and they should’ve just done their own thing instead…which is how I feel about Mary Poppins Returns.

Apart from the unavoidable bias, the acting distracted me, as did the casting, specifically with Emily Blunt’s accent…which sounded off to me, and I never believed she sold it, and Mr. Banks’s dead rat on his face, which was obviously pasted onto a face that probably is incapable of growing facial hair altogether. These things made it hard for me to believe these were serious characters versus cosplayers gearing up for the next comic convention in San Diego. That being said, the best character/actor in this movie was Lin-Manuel Miranda, as even though he was basically Dick Van Dyke, they allowed him to include his unique brand of music into the film, which helped give it a taste of authenticity in the long run.

WRITING – 6/10 (60%)

Dialogue – 2/2 | Balance – 1/2 | Story Depth – 1/2 | Originality – 0/2 | Interesting – 2/2

It was a little bit better when it came to the writing score, but not by much. As mentioned a couple of times already, this film was essentially just copying the first movie in practically every way, so nothing about it feels new enough to consider even slightly original. The only thing that’s different than the first film is that the magic you feel when watching a Disney movie wasn’t really around this time, even though magical events were transpiring in the film itself, so originality got no points. Everything else did, though. As this was a musical, it’s easy enough to say dialogue was important to the plot, as singing is technically dialogue. As far as balance goes, it was a little confusing as who the protagonist was, which was so clearly Mr. Banks – but because he is so barely focused on, you hit a major speed bump in film pacing, which I’ll go over in the Narrative Arc section, but for here, it knocks the balance down 1 point. As far as depth goes, it is a Disney movie with Mary Poppins, so at the very least, the bones of something meaningful is there, but I had a hard time picking up on it. I never really thought the children needed to learn anything, maybe the grown-up Banks children, as they are the real protagonists, but again, the focus wasn’t so much on them, so the depth is also lost. I will at least say it was interesting enough to watch and keep watching.

BTS – 9/10 (90%)

Visuals – 2/2 | Cinematography – 1/2 | Editing – 2/2 | Advertising – 2/2 | Music & Sound – 2/2

Ah hah! Here’s the culprit. So much effort was put into this section that some of the other aspects of the film are more or less abandoned. What’s going on behind-the-scenes is more or less solid and stronger than anything else in the movie, so even though other elements in the film struggled to impress me, I will give credit where it was due. The director had a very specific artistic vision and feel for the film, which he clearly met. The visuals, in general, do a pretty good job of putting you back into the land where Mary Poppins began. That street in London, that house with the ship on top, that cartoon land, that feel…it’s all done perfectly well – so that gets full points. The cinematography was okay most of the time, some elements were better than others, but this isn’t really where most of the strength lies. Editing was done well, given the musical and dance numbers that needed to be expertly stitched together worked very well. It was as-advertised, and even if I didn’t think the songs were iconic, they were good enough and they were a huge focus on the plot of the film. They did very well in the BTS category.

NARRATIVE ARC – 8/10 (80%)

Introduction – 2/2 | Inciting Incident – 2/2 | Obstacles – 1/2 | Climax – 2/2 | Resolution – 1/2

Okay, so as mentioned above, I was going to explain in detail how the pacing of the film affected the film negatively. As mentioned above, the hero of the story and the character who holds the most importance is Mr. Banks. The film, if it had followed his character from beginning to end, would have given the film a stronger sense of pacing, as well as had very clear obstacles in his way, not only giving the film solid writing, but a solid narrative structure, as well. However, the film decided to focus on the children and Mary Poppins, which as a whole, almost seems pointless in comparison to the real story going on that deserves merit. What happened when they did this? It created the pacing problem, basically, solid, but muffled character goals in preference for silly Disney stuff, and ignored character obstacles in preference for silly Disney stuff.

As a whole, the narrative arc is still decent, but as the protagonist isn’t focused on primarily, he is left with only one main goal, and it’s almost as if the film’s scenes with Mary Poppins are the obstacles that stop him from getting to point B.

ENTERTAINMENT – 3/10 (30%)

Rewatchability – 1/2 | Fun Experience – 1/2 | Impulse/Buy – 0/2 | Impulse/Talk – 1/2 | Sucks you In – 0/2

Here we go. When it comes to how entertaining the movie is, it has its moments, but for the most part, I remain unimpressed. I may rewatch it again, but not anytime soon, and I doubt it’ll come from me searching for it to rewatch. If a friend pops it in…maybe. As far as having a good time while watching, sure, during some of the musical dance numbers, but not so much with the story as a whole. I have no impulse to buy it or own it, so it’s not going on a wish list. I would consider certain parts of this film discussion-worthy, since it is a sequel to a highly recognizable and classic film, but other than that…meh. As for sucking you in? I found this film to be very pause-able. Heck, I wouldn’t have any issues using the bathroom without pausing it because I never really felt as if I’d miss anything substantial if I did.

SPECIALTY – 25/40 (62.5%)

Mary Poppins – 10/10 | Sequel – 0/10 | Musical – 5/10 | Halfway Decent – 10/10

Before you see Mary Poppins Returns, there is always some unavoidable expectations going in, especially because of where it came from. I think the first thing people will come to expect is that at the very least, it feels like Mary Poppins, and as mentioned in the BTS category, it does, that’s more or less what the visuals and tone of the music did for the film, so this gets full points. As a sequel, I always ask two questions: Was it needed or wanted, and if they added anything new, and for both of these questions, I got a resounding, “no”. It’s been more than five decades since the first movie and nobody really cared THAT much that there was never a sequel, and as for adding anything new, I’ve already mentioned twice that it’s basically the same movie. As a musical, I did say that the music was mostly okay, but not iconic. I watched the film yesterday, and today…I’ve forgotten all of the songs, all of the lyrics, and I’m not even humming songs. Nothing. BUT, did they make the movie that they intended to make from the get go? Sure. Full points there.

TOTAL SCORE – 60%

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