‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is an unnecessary step back in time
Mary Poppins has been a classic Hollywood musical enjoyed by families since 1964. Julie Andrews has been an example of a perfect nanny while Dick Van Dyke has given Americans an example of a horrible British accent for over fifty years. Nobody had any problems with the first film (besides Van Dyke’s horrific accent, but that’s another story), and families to this day still watch the classic musical tale of rotten kids with their whimsical nanny.
But now, a new Mary is in town along with a new lower class sidekick, ready to whip some new Banks children into shape. With Emily Blunt starring as a beautiful and original Mary Poppins, and the icon of modern American musical theater, Lin-Manuel Miranda, as her new trusty sidekick, an easter-egg filled Mary Poppins Returns that pays homage to the original has no way to go wrong… or does it?
Practically perfect musical numbers
Like the first film, the sequel is very music heavy. From the very first seconds of the movie, the music is what one would expect from a Disney movie: lyrical, vibrant and fun. While the music is very stereotypical for a Disney family movie, it still has a little bit of uniqueness that ties it back to its predecessor. The movie begins with a welcoming solo from Jack himself (Lin-Manuel Miranda), and immediately entices audiences into the world of Mary Poppins. Each song afterwards both builds the story and also engages every member of the audience.
The music and lyrics for this movie were written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have previously worked together for movies and broadway shows such as Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. These two shined in this movie, paying homage to the original through songs such as “A Cover is Not the Book” which is similar in feel to the classic “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” which has a comparable feel to the original dance number “Step in Time.” While these numbers and others are filled with memories of the old movie, they also add a modern spin on the classic and encompass the strengths of their new leads. Miranda features his famous hip-hop style with a bit of rapping in some of the numbers, and others showcase Blunt’s strong alto voice. Shaiman and Wittman do a great job in this musical by giving a variation on the classic style of the original while also adding modern flairs to fit the musical style of today.
A spoonful of bad visuals
While this movie hit the nail on the head with the musical numbers, the visual effects were a bit atrocious. With so many live-action and intensely animated movies in today’s day and age, the animators of this movie had no excuse for dodgy CGI and awkward animations, yet that’s exactly what they delivered. Some of the scenes that were “imaginary,” such as scenes where Mary and the children were immersed in worlds that seemed unreal (such the ocean in the bathtub or the cartoon world on the bowl) made the children and Mary seem completely out of place in the scenery of the world they were in. Whether it be that their imaginary world was inconsistently animated or they looked like they were floating in front of a green screen, the visual effects and animations really detracted from the feeling of the scene.
Some might argue that these visual effects are similar to the original film, and, in that case, they would be correct. These animations are extremely similar to those used in the first film. But that film was made over fifty years ago. They were innovative animations in 1964, but in 2018 they simply don’t work. They could have used this sequel to fix any problems and modernize the first film in every way, but instead they got too caught up in their reverence to the original that they missed the mark on the modern CGI that many are used to seeing, especially from Disney.
Trying to stay awake
There are definitely some strong points within the movie that have yet to be discussed. Emily Blunt brings an original yet familiar version of Mary Poppins to the screen. She did not seem to copy Julie Andrew’s original performance, but she was not so far-fetched that it seemed like a completely different person. Also, the message that the movie portrays is an excellent and family-friendly idea that ties in the old movie as well. The movie focuses on the fact that the parents can learn from children and their childlike nature, which is a lesson that can be passed down for generations.
With that said, there is one major issue that is pressing throughout the entire film. The movie is too long. With a run time of 130 minutes, I truly wonder how many children will be able to sit through this film. The plot itself is not extremely slow, but there seem to be musical numbers that just feel unnecessary. Meryl Streep makes an appearance as Mary Poppins’ cousin who should be able to fix a bowl that the children broke, however the entire scene felt completely unneeded. It added nothing to the plot, and it really just exists to pad the runtime. This is also true for the dance number with Jack and the leeries. While it was obvious that they were trying to pay homage to “Step in Time,” the number seemed to last forever and was hard to understand why they were dancing for so long when the children at the point needed to get home. While it was understandable that they wanted to add some fun characters and dance numbers, they might have needed to ask a few times if it truly was necessary.
Featured Image: Royal Albert Hall
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