When it comes to classic family films, Mary Poppins is as classic and renowned as they come. Enjoyed by generations after generations, the 1964 film that made Julie Andrews a household name, left a lasting impression. So when news of a sequel came to light, fans the world over rejoiced, especially with casting of Emily Blunt as the ‘new’ Mary Poppins.
Aptly titled Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel to the classic film continues on from the original story of the Banks family. Now grown up, a widow and with three young children, Michael Banks learns that his family home is due to be repossessed unless he’s able to pay back a loan or find a missing certificate of shares that his father had left the Banks children. Unable to find the certificate, even with the help of his sister, Jane, all hope seems lost, that is, until Mary Poppins reappears to help the Banks children find joy, hope and wonder in the world again.
The story, while tweaked slightly, essentially follows the standard formula of the original film, in which Mary Poppins instills the idea of magic in the world to the Banks children, who feel lost in despair due to their circumstances. This in turn helps them think of creative ways to help their father and uncover the conspiracy behind their bad luck.
Having the film follow the same formula meant that much of the film was predictable, the charm of the original classic feeling recreated in a way that felt disingenuous and forced. One would think that where the story was uninspiring, that at least the animations and musical aspects of the film would be captivating, but yet, in Mary Poppins Returns, something just felt lacking. Perhaps as an adult I’m seeing the film through the eyes of someone who’s lost the ‘childish wonder’ and questions everything.
Warning: The following may contain spoilers.
The animations were, of course, on point given that CGI and animation technology has come so far since 1964. Visually, the film managed to integrate real life with animation really well, but this feature is nothing new nor original given that Mary Poppins and other films like Enchanted and Bedknobs and Broomsticks had already succeeded in doing the same in the past.
Whilst not exactly novel, I did enjoy the fact that the animation and ‘cartoon’ aspects of the film maintained an old school, circa 1990s style of artwork and design. This is the kind of animation that I grew up with and enjoyed rather than the new age style of cartoons of today, which utilises more rounded features and characters that look and feel remarkably…childish.
The film felt arduously long and cumbersome, almost as if the makers of the film were desperately trying to recreate the magic of the original film by throwing in as much as they could into this sequel. What resulted was many a boring moment, wherein I asked myself if I should just walk out of the cinema.
Many of these less than enjoyable moments were during the musical scenes. Though one or two songs were decent, many were simply far too long and nowhere near as catchy as the original score from Mary Poppins. One musical number in particular, involving Lin-Manuel Miranda and his lamp lighters, closely resembled “Chim Chim Cher-ee” but instead of being original and catchy felt like an utter waste of time and a lacklustre attempt at trying to copy the charm of the latter musical number.
Miranda’s character, Jack, as well, was just a direct copy of Dick Van Dyke’s Bert, only far more cheesy. His attempts to woo Jane was also equally cringe-worthy. His character almost felt a little fake, like he was putting on a front in order to pass off as being anywhere near as charming as Bert.
Emily Blunt, however, who plays Mary Poppins, did a brilliant job in portraying the beloved character, not detracting too much from Julie Andrews’ version. Her overly prim and proper persona was on point, and as the titular character, she certainly stole the show.
Overall, Mary Poppins Returns was a reasonable attempt at bringing the character back for a new generation to enjoy, however, the film’s desperate attempts to be as memorable as the original with over the top antics, cheesy musical numbers and rather questionable ‘magical’ moments meant that I personally found myself reminiscing more about the 1964 film rather than enjoying the sequel. Perhaps this one needs to be taken as a standalone rather than a sequel.