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  • Showing only topics with the tag "musicals". Back to normal view
    1. Mary Poppins Returns: some thoughts

      I have just watched ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, after yesterday watching the original ‘Mary Poppins’ for the first time. I have not, to my knowledge, ever watched ‘Mary Poppins’ in full before now....

      I have just watched ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, after yesterday watching the original ‘Mary Poppins’ for the first time. I have not, to my knowledge, ever watched ‘Mary Poppins’ in full before now. I’ve caught snippets of it on weekend television, but I’ve never seen it from start to finish. Well, with our new Disney+ streaming subscription, I’ve finally seen ‘Mary Poppins’ for the first time yesterday, and followed it up by watching ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ today.

      ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is a sequel in name only. It’s basically a remake of the original. It’s as if the director had a checklist of everything ‘Mary Poppins’ contained, and just checked them off in this sequel:

      • Mary Poppins herself. Check.

      • A dirty working-class friend with a heart of gold. Check.

      • Children who didn’t know how to have fun. Check.

      • A father who needed to rediscover his children and his own childish joy. Check.

      • A woman who’s working for a progressive cause. Check.

      • Bank seen as a negative institution. Check.

      • Quirky relative of Mary Poppins who gives the children a different point of view. Check.

      • Animated sequence. Check.

      Actually, I’m surprised that there is an animated sequence in the sequel, given how much P.L. Travers reportedly hated the animation in the original. (Strangely, I’ve seen ‘Saving Mr Banks’ a couple of times, and even watched a documentary about Ms Travers somewhere along the way.) But I suppose she’s dead now, so her input is limited to just turning in her grave.

      It even gets more detailed than that. Individual musical numbers have been mapped from one movie to another:

      • Vaudeville-style song & dance number within the animated sequence, with the main characters performing alongside cartoon animals. Check.

      • Big dance number featuring the aforementioned working-class friend and his colleagues. Check. The names even have a metaphorical resonance: “Step in Time” becomes “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”.

      • Uplifting song at the end of the movie. Check. But instead of being about a child’s toy that flies in the sky (kite), let’s make it about a different child’s toy that flies in the sky (balloon).

      It’s a shame that Julie Andrews can’t sing any more. It would have been lov-er-ly (ha!) to see her in the cameo role that Angela Lansbury had. Not that I have anything against Ms Lansbury: far from it! But Dick Van Dyke got a small role, and it would have been nice to see Ms Andrews pop up as well. A little on-screen moment between her and Emily Blunt would have been sweet.

      There was one thing that the director left off his checklist, though: singable songs. While everyone knows “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and can sing it at the drop of a hat, noone is going to be singing “A Cover is not the Book”, as fun as it was. “A Spoonful of Sugar” is fun and memorable, while “Can You Imagine That” is fun and forgettable.

      This is not to derogate the performances. There were no weak links in this chain. Emily Blunt was spot-on as Mary Poppins. Lin-Manuel Miranda was technically great as Jack the lamplighter (and he certainly did a better Cockney accent than Dick Van Dyke – which admittedly isn’t hard). Miranda lacked a little heart, but is a great singer and dancer. The rest of the cast were also good. Not a sour note among them. They were just let down by a weak script and poor songs.

      The new Mary Poppins movie is a watered-down copy of the original – and the original wasn’t the best movie in the world to start with! I love me a good musical. I have a whole shelf full of musicals on disc, along with assorted soundtracks. I can quite happily spend an afternoon with ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ or the family-friendly ‘My Fair Lady’. But ‘Mary Poppins’ was too bland for me. And its sequel/remake was even blander.

      15 votes