Title: Mary Poppins Returns
Director: Rob Marshall
Stars: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Wishaw, Emily Mortimer
In a Nutshell: Mary Poppins Returns was not necessarily a remake of the original, but a *sort of* sequel.
The Critique: I don’t think there was anything fundamentally wrong with the remake — sorry, sequel — there were just a lot of things that could have been done better, and some things that were just plain silly.
I made a comprehensive list of the thoughts that distracted me most while watching Mary Poppins Returns:
1. Big Ben, Little Time, Go-Getter Jack
Okay, I know this scene is almost at the end of the film, but I have to mention it my first because it’s my favorite.
Beyond Banker Wilkins window is Big Ben, the numen of clocks, which all the other, smaller, clocks in London must follow. The Banks must give the proof of shares to Wilkins before midnight, in order to save their childhood home, which is under threat of repossession.
Mary Poppins, the Banks, Jack, and his leeries (the lamp-lighting boys dance team) all race to Big Ben to literally turn back the hands of time. Once they reach the tower, the all the leeries stack their 6-foot ladders crookedly on top of one another to get to the top of a 315 foot tall building (My favorite part is when they hammer the wood ladder into the stone building with their fists).
After a time-consuming, anxiety-inducing climb, Jack lands himself on the platform of the clock only to find that he CAN’T REACH THE HANDS OF THE CLOCK. Then, Mary Poppins just flies to the top, which she could have done the entire time.
Now. I understand that sometimes we put unnecessary obstacles in character’s way because it’s inspiring and fun to watch them overcome it. This was not that. I would have rather seen a slick break in, and a choreographed sequence of the leeries rushing up a spiral staircase (in my movie Big Ben has a spiral staircase), maybe with Mary Poppins flying up through the middle, while joining in song. In my movie, they would have reached the top at the same time and worked together to turn back the clock.
2. Topsy-Turvy Meryl Streep
Mary Poppins, Jack, and the Banks children go to visit Mary Poppins’ cousin, Topsy (Meryl Streep), to ask her to fix their broken china bowl.
Every third Thursday, Topsy’s world turns literally upside down, keeping her from doing any work. She wallows in worry, concerned about her rotating home.
I was so excited for this. I really thought they were going to come up with some super elaborate choreography, as the set took them by surprise and periodically forced them onto all 4 walls and the ceiling.
Instead, it turned upside down before they entered the set, and after a few minutes of playing around on the ceiling, they just all ended up in headstands to compensate for the inconvenience. They sing about changing perspective, and I assumed it was going in the direction of the children realizing they don’t need their childhood home to be happy and to be a family. Instead, Meryl Streep just changes her mind, that now Thursdays are actually her favorite.
3. I Wish They Were Trapped in the Animated World, Forever
Holy Mother of Hell. This animated sequence is incredible. I would go sit through this movie again, just to watch these few scenes. The sequence looked so cared for and loved, the hand-drawn animation was overwhelmingly beautiful.
The animated world lives inside the Banks’ China bowl, which the children travel into to fix a chip. Once inside, they meet anthropomorphised characters, like a polar bear, horse, owl, and ferret. They also change their clothes once inside the sequence, which actually look like they’re hand drawn to fit the world around them. This is an incredible detail to further meld the animated and live-action worlds together.
There’s a performance by Mary Poppins and Jack, which I believe was the best performance in the entire movie. After the performance there’s a chase scene, in which the older Banks children pursue their younger brother, who was kidnapped by the wolf — animated Banker Wilkins.
To end the sequence, they fall off the edge of the bowl and wake up from this “dream”
I wish that most of the movie would have taken place here. They could have elongated the chase, in which the children would be dealing with the animated, wolf-version of Wilkins, while their father and aunt would deal with the real-life, (boring adult) Banker Wilkins. This way the children’s story could have been more lively and uh, animated, and the adult story could have been more dramatic and… developed?
It was cute.
I walked away from it festering up a number of ways it could have been better, which doesn’t happen when I watch great movies. To me, movies that do fantastic world building, acting, and story-telling, are movies that turn off my analytical brain — they make me shut up and just enjoy it. Everything in this movie was half-way there to me. Like they only had half the number of people they usually have in the writing room, and nothing was drawn out into further detail. Most of the movie just sat on the surface — except for that animated sequence. The animated sequence could have served as a short by itself. Also, I should mention that I’m not a huge fan of the original. My obsession with the animation was not because it was a homage. But, if you are a fan of the original, the animated sequence will be that much more lovely.
If you are at all mesmerized by gorgeous, hand-drawn animation, or if you are a fan of the original Mary Poppins, you should hurry to the theatres before they cut the showtimes.