There are always a few movies that come out each year that act as love letters to old Hollywood. Sometimes you get a movie like La La Land that does it just enough, but not too much. Sometimes you get one that does it just a little bit too much. Does this make it a bad movie? Not at all. Mary Poppins Returns is quite frankly a charming film. But does it affect its ability to become a classic? Yes. Let’s take a look at what worked and what didn’t in Mary Poppins Returns.
Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives.
First off, Emily Blunt is incredible in this movie. Her wit and comedic timing are unmatched. 2018 is a good year for her in terms of her range as an actress (not that it was in question, but you know what I mean). To see her performance in the dark and horrifying A Quiet Place coupled with her confident and witty performance in Mary Poppins Returns really shows good contrast with her acting abilities. She is simply brilliant. What is frustrating with this sequel is that it somehow feels like she isn’t in the movie enough. Like, she’s there but as a viewer you just want a lot more of her. This is a role that she could definitely do again if Disney decides to move forward with another instalment. Somewhere between the second and third act her character seems to go from meaningful dialogue to a few one liners here and there. The rest of the cast is good as well. Ben Whishaw portrays Michael Banks and he is about to have his house taken by the bank because of past due payments. His performance attempts to be deeper than it actually is simply because the development isn’t quite there. Lin-Manuel Miranda is Jack, a lamp lighter in London. He has a pretty big role in the movie and he’s enjoyable in it. Emily Mortimer is Michael’s sister, Jane Banks. She is pretty solid as well. Michael’s three kids tie the bow in the charming category as we see them go on the imaginative adventures with Mary Poppins. They have some of the best scenes in the movie.
From the technical standpoint, Mary Poppins Returns is a very pleasing film to look at. The camera work and cinematography are both impressive and the visual effects will likely earn an Oscar Nomination. Not to mention the hair and makeup and costume design are marvellous. The editing and pacing are also great. The movie clocks in at 2 hours and 10 minutes, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it. You will not check your watch in this one. The songs and sound editing are good as well, but the score feels pretty generic.
Mary Poppins Returns is a charming movie, there’s no question about it. Certain scenes and moments will make you smile and feel like a child again. The problem is, at times it tries too hard to be charming and it feels forced. Some moments are too over the top and it attempts to be that charming Hollywood love letter just a little too often. Instead of focusing on being its own movie, it tries to be the original all over again but just with better visual effects. That is the most disappointing thing about Mary Poppins Returns. It’s important to pay homage to the original, but it is also just as important to be your own movie. Playing it safe is a very Disney thing to do, and that’s exactly what they did. This doesn’t make it a bad movie by any means, but it holds it back from being a spectacular sequel that’ll be talked about for years.
There is a lot to like about Mary Poppins Returns. A few of the songs are catchy and the performances, especially Emily Blunt’s, are wonderful. The story will wrap up in a nice way of course and nothing about the screenplay is surprising or super original. It’s painful to say that overall, it’s slightly disappointing. Fans online lost their minds when the first trailer dropped, hailing it as a classic months before it hit theaters. Unfortunately, playing it too safe and feeling manufactured, will keep it from becoming a classic. It is still a good family movie to see around the holidays and it is worth your time at the theater. Go check it out, but don’t expect to be blown away.