Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: David Magee
Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters
Even when one learns a lesson at a young, sometimes a reminder becomes necessary when we reach adulthood. The cynicism and turmoil of life can change one’s demeanor and approach as seen by the Banks children. It appears they need the services once again of their once beloved nanny in Mary Poppins Returns.
On the brink of foreclosing on his family home, Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) must find a way to not lose the residence. With the pressures of this incident, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) arrives at their doorstep and offers her assistance in caring for Michael’s children.
Picking up the mantle of one of the most iconic characters in cinema is an unenviable position for any actor. Mary Poppins remains one of the most beloved figures, as she became the nanny for every child who experienced the film at a young age. This sequel adds its modern sensibilities to this world but ultimately cannot come close to the levels of its preceding film by any stretch. Everything about it feels overdrawn and the film overstays its welcome rather quickly. It certainly had a promising beginning. In the original Mary Poppins, the titular character needed to control and educate these children, but this sequel begins with an emotional gut punch. It shows Michael trying to care for his kids after his wife has passed. The film sets it up incredibly well by making you mourn for a character we have never seen, but it makes the inclusion of Mary Poppins vital. Unfortunately, Mary Poppins Returns loses the good grace it built.
Every musical sequence feels one or two minutes too long and it had one too many songs for the good of the story. The same magic that captured the imaginations of many for decades could not be replicated even with the fantastic cast brought to portray these characters. Mary Poppins remains the same person but now portrayed by Emily Blunt, who can do no wrong. She almost measures up to the work of Julie Andrews but the misstep unfortunately comes from Lin-Manuel Miranda. I appreciate and adore the man for what he represents in the Latinx community, but his role in the character of Jack did not work in this story. His terrible cockney accent may have reached the heights of Dick Van Dyke, but his character did not have the same spark as the comedian. He really goes for it in the role, I’ll give him that, but his character does not add anything of substance in a film that feels overly long already. Even with it being 30 minutes shorter than the original, it feels like double the time.
This perception of this film feeling longer comes from sequences and scenes that feel like they don’t push the narrative forward. Namely, the sequence within the bowl shows an entire sequence, which felt incredibly long and mostly unnecessary in the context of the entire film. I don’t like to sit back and state that films could have cut off certain moments or scenes, but I found myself on multiple occasions checking my watch wondering when a particular sequence or musical number would finally end.
One aspect of this feature that truly impressed me was the costumes beautifully created by the always-spectacular Sandy Powell. It even brings life to the dreaded bowl scene with the costumes blending in with the 2D atmosphere and the 3D characters. She never disappoints and she did a spectacular job once again. Additionally, the song “The Place Where Lost Things Go” truly hits home and beautifully ties into the overall theme set at the beginning of the feature.
Even with its bright moments, Mary Poppins Returns ultimately disappointed as it felt incredibly bloated and lost its focus on several occasions. It squanders the incredible momentum it built up from the heartwarming premise it established, and instead opted for musical numbers that went far too long and without as much purpose. Even with all of the incredible talent involved, including some of my favorite people in the acting business, it could not capture the same magic from the original feature film. Instead, it feels incredibly forgettable and yet another unnecessary utilization of intellectual property for a quick buck by Disney.