Movie Review: ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

Review by Lauryn Angel

As a fan of Emily Blunt and of the classic original Mary Poppins, I expected to love Mary Poppins Returns. As it turns out, the original film is lightning in a bottle, and Disney’s attempt to recapture the magic results in a bit of a dud that made me roll my eyes instead of wanting to sing along.

First things first, the cast is not the problem here. Emily Blunt is a pitch-perfect Poppins, and she’s clearly having a good time in the role. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer are convincing as grown-up Michael and Jane Banks, who, for better and worse, respectively, have become their parents. Jane tirelessly campaigns for labor rights whilst Michael follows in his father’s footsteps to work at the bank. Lin-Manuel Miranda puts his considerable talents to work as Jack, the friendly neighborhood lamp-lighter. The movie is quite literally studded with stars: Julie Walters plays the Banks’ housekeeper, Ellen; Collin Firth chews scenery as a villainous bank chairman; Meryl Streep gives a turn as Mary Poppins’ Topsy-turvy cousin. And then there are delightful cameos.

Unfortunately, however, a movie is not made by performances alone. The performers need a good script, and in the case of a Mary Poppins movie, memorable songs that are fun to sing. In the case of Mary Poppins returns, the balance is off. The original film did not have much of a plot, which may just be where this movie goes wrong. The film opens with the bank’s lawyers paying a visit to 17 Cherry Tree Lane to let Michael know that he’s behind on an ill-advised loan and has a week to pay in full, or he loses the Banks family home. Enter the Banks children – Abigail (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson) – who try to save their home under the guidance of Mary Poppins. Once this plot is established, the movie follows the pattern of the original film much too closely, to the point that the plot of saving the house becomes almost an after-thought that sits on a back-burner, only to rush back in towards the end of the film. And maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like there were far too many songs, and none of them were particularly catchy like “A Spoonful of Sugar” or “I Love to Laugh” – “Turning Turtle” comes close.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I found Mary Poppins Returns to be a bit of a dud. Your mileage may vary – the children in attendance seemed to enjoy it, and my friend commented that her grandmother will love it. But there are far better movies to spend your money on if you find yourself at the multiplex this holiday season.

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