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Fifty four years after the original Mary Poppins hit the big screen and subsequently won Disney five Academy Awards, a sequel arrives in theaters hoping to replicate the same magic, success, and worldwide fans as the beloved 1964 classic. Unfortunately, from my point of view as someone who is a big fan of the original, Mary Poppins Returns doesn't live up to expectations.
First off, don't expect to see Julie Andrews, who is now in her 80's, as the titular nanny. She is no where to be seen, even in a small cameo, sideline role. The sequel stars the multi talented Emily Blunt and she is given quite a task filling the shoes of her predecessor whose work as Poppins garnered her the Oscar for Best Actress.
The sequel is set in London during the 1930's depression era, known in Britain as “the Great Slump”. Twenty five years after Poppins left her mark on the Banks family, she arrives on the scene once again, making a grand entrance descending from the sky on a string of a kite with her signature umbrella and carpet bag. The magical nanny hasn't aged a day, but the Banks children, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now all grown up. Jane is single and a union activist and the newly widowed, grief stricken, Michael, has been left raising his three children, Georgie, and twins Anabel and John (played by Joel Dawson, Pixie Davies and Nathaniel Saleh) with the help of housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters) and the loving presence of his sister.
It's been a hard year for Michael. First he loses his wife and now, to make matters worse, he is visited by two bank representatives that inform him his home on Cherry Tree Lane is about to be put into foreclosure. He is months behind on mortgage payments and has five days to pay off the lean in full, which means he must desperately search and find the bank certificate that shows proof of the bank shares he owns, or he and his children will soon wind up homeless. Colin Firth has the thankless job of portraying the villain, Mr. William Wilkins, the cold hearted, scheming, bank president.
Poppins shows up just at the right time, to help Michael look after the children and fill their lives with joy, wonder, incredible adventures and imagination. Before you know it, she is taking the fully clothed children on an underwater bathtub adventure, inside a painting on a piece of pottery, and a visit to her eccentric cousin Topsy (a Russian accented Meryl Streep), who teaches them a lesson on seeing things from another point of view. Those sequences, featuring live action mixed with top notch CGI, are all very colorful and vibrant, but all along I kept waiting for something original and spectacular to happen, which never does. As for the musical numbers, unlike the songwriting team of bothers, Robert and Richard Sherman, who wrote such memorable ditties such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Spoonful of Sugar” for the original film, the songs in the sequel by Marc Shaiman are forgettable.
Award winning Broadway show creator/composer/singer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda co-stars as Jack, the ever optimistic, good natured, London street lamplighter, whose character is woven throughout the storyline to bring light to the proceedings in more ways than one. Unfortunately, he lacks screen charisma. Thrown in is a budding romantic connection between him and Jane, although they have little, if any, on screen chemistry.
Emily Blunt, on the other hand, is impressive, capturing the look, demeanor, and essence of the prim and proper Poppins. The Oscar nominated actress has proven before (Into the Woods) that not only is she a fine actress, she can also sing and dance. Yet, as talented and charming as she may be, in this instance, she can't hold a candle to Andrews, who, in my opinion, forever owns this iconic role.
The always delightful stage and film star, Angela Landsbury makes a very brief appearance as a balloon lady, and Dick Van Dyke appears towards the end in a scene stealing cameo, not as his lovable chimney sweep character Bert, from the original film, but well, let me leave that as a surprise, other than adding that well into his 90's he still is lovable, light on his feet and can dance.
As a big fan of musicals, I wanted so much to love this film. However, I can't give Mary Poppins Returns a high recommendation. Fine cast aside, David Magee's (Hairspray) script is bland and predictable and most of all lacks the magic that will stay with you long after leaving the theater. Practically perfect in every way? I am so sorry to say, disappointing and practically mediocre are more fitting adjectives for this sequel.
Courtesy of http://www.theflickchicks.com