Archive for January 4th, 2019

Mary Poppins ReturnsIt’s likely that one’s feelings about Mary Poppins Returns (2018) depend on how one thinks about the 1964 original. I didn’t see the earlier film until the end of 2011, so I don’t have any childhood memories. I did like it, quite a lot.

So how does one make a reboot? It has to have elements of the original – the now-adult Banks children, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and (Emily Mortimer) plus the widowed Michael’s three kids, Pixie Davies as Anabel, Nathanael Saleh as John, and Joel Dawson as little Georgie who was often getting into trouble.

Of course, we need the title character (Emily Blunt), who’s a bit blunter than Julie Andrews’ take. I liked that, though some reviewers assuredly did not. She’s not quite in Andrews’ league in the genre, but she’s a quite decent singer and engaging actor.

Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Jack, the lamplighter—or “leerie”, the functional equivalent of Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweep. Both men are charming, talented singers, but neither was great with the accent.

The dance of the leeries was too reminiscent of the chimney sweeps’ hoofing for my taste.

Is the music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, such as (Underneath the) Lovely London Sky and A Conversation less memorable than the work done by the Sherman brothers, Richard and Robert?

Nothing stuck out on first listen such as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but I’ve been hearing that soundtrack for over half a century. Interestingly, it was the use of incidental Sherman music that helped hold the new film together.

There’s a point, maybe about halfway through, where a song so grabbed me, in context, that I just surrendered to the film. I felt the wistfulness, fear, and hope of the characters.

Here’s a piece of trivia: “At the age of 93 at the time of the movie’s release, Angela Lansbury is the oldest female actor ever to appear in a Disney film. She is just two months older than the oldest male actor in a Disney film, Dick Van Dyke.” They both added to the film in their small roles, as did Meryl Streep in a more prominent bit.

All in all, Mary Poppins Returns is inessential, I suppose. It may rub up against your memories of the original, or it might add to them, as it did for me. My wife and my daughter also enjoyed it when we saw it at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany on Christmas Day.

A couple related links:
The secret dark side to the classic ‘Mary Poppins’, which weren’t all that secret to me

My review of Saving Mr. Banks (2013), about the making of the 1964 film, with Emma Thompson as author P. L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney

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