Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Mary Poppins Returns

On Sunday, December 30th, we went to see Mary Poppins Returns, the new Disney movie loosely based on the books by P.L. Travers. Mary Poppins Returns is even further removed than the 1964 film, since matters have been moved forward twenty years and a generation in time, so that the “Banks children” she nannies for are the sons and daughter of Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), one of Mary’s original charges. This time, it is not the children who are in disarray: it is Michael who is really in need of saving, since, due to the recent death of his wife (sigh—being a mother in a Disney movie is a job without a future, it seems--), he’s lost his grip on domestic affairs, including neglecting the mortgage payments to the point the family home is being foreclosed upon. Of course, there’s ultimately a happy ending, but with numerous of the typical Mary Poppins diversions along the way, beginning with bath time that becomes an ocean voyage.

One can’t help but make a point-by-point comparison between Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Returns, since they are so similar in structure, and some of the scenes and songs have pretty much direct analogues from one to the other.  The animated sequence in the first film, “Jolly Holiday” is echoed by “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” and “A Cover Is Not The Book” in the new film. Ironically, I thought that the animated animals (including de rigeur penguins) were more poorly done in the new film: by comparison with those from 1964, the new characters are flat and distorted.  In particular, the dog coachman is so bizarrely misshapen as to be disturbing.

Mary’s bath-time song “Can You Imagine That,” has the same function as “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Mary and the Banks children (Anabel, John, and Georgie, played by Pixie Davies, Joel Dawson, and Nathanael Saleh) visit another one of Mary’s odd relatives, Topsy Turvy (Merle Streep!) and, instead of Uncle Albert’s “I Love to Laugh” song, get “Turning Turtle”, celebrating Cousin Topsy’s own odd condition. Jack the lamplighter (Lin-Manuel Miranda) takes the place of Bert the chimney sweep, and the song and dance number “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” fills in for both “Chim-chim-cheree” and “Step in Time.” “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” is quite a fantastic production number, but somehow doesn’t affect me with the same anarchic, manic energy as “Step in Time,” which I still find astonishing.

That’s really the issue with much of the movie, which seems a paler iteration of the original. While Emily Blunt is a fine actress whom I admire, and sings prettily enough, her voice is not a match for Julie Andrews’ remarkable vocal instrument.  (She is very affecting singing “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” which does not have a counterpart from 1964, and which I found inexpressibly sad.)

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Tags: fantasy, movies

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