Monday With Mildred: “Mary Poppins Returns”

Mary Poppins Returns

Trepidation (noun): tremulous fear, alarm, or agitation; perturbation

So, yeah, I was reluctant to watch the remake of the original Mary Poppins, which I have only seen twice, both times in the theater on first run. You might remember that was a long time ago. Nevertheless, it’s a movie I remember very fondly, if not precisely and I was hesitant to see it diminished by the new Hollywood. Yeah, no, I don’t trust them. But I really, really like Emily Blunt and finally gave in to my curiosity about her musical theater ability.

The original movie had a jovial but befuddled father and a strident suffragette mother with precocious and preternaturally mature children who require a stern hand to regress them back to childhood wonder. A nanny flies in with her umbrella and does just that, and also helps them save the day. This film, with a title card that says “Based on the Mary Poppins stories by PL Travers” is essentially the original movie remade and set a couple of decades later, with a befuddled father who was one of Mary Poppins’ protégés and his sister the labor organizer. They live with his children in the same house, now more rundown and heavily mortgaged.  Their children need the same hard hand to regression, so Mary Poppins shows up again and does her thing.

I expected the film to have a different look than the 1964 original, which was fantastical at all times, even when the actors weren’t singing and dancing with animated penguins. The new version has really fine sets, artwork and costuming but without the constant fantastical look. When it does veer into homages to the original fantasy elements it looks both pretty and familiar, as well as modern. The original film’s animation was all hand drawn and inked and had that almost fuzzy, saturated color look of the pre-computer days. The fantasy elements of Returns are colorful and fun but have a definite computerized feel. The focus is sharper and computers give the action a greater leeway than could even be imagined back in the day. The music has a very familiar feel without being exactly the same. The songs were catchy and nostalgic. My favorite was the opening number “Underneath the Lovely London Sky”, sung with a sneaky bit of sarcasm by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who never lost his English accent.

There were some updates to mark Return as a modern movie, such as adding some more modern dance moves and street bike choreography. The biggest change was a lot more diversity in the cast, and some very inside jokes that made me smile when I caught them. One of the evil lawyers is black, as is the secretary to the evil banker. Her name is Penny Farthing, which is awfully similar to Moneypenny if you ask me. The “leeries”, the manly men, Poppins worshipping, silhouette dancing lamplighters have replaced the original chimney sweeps, and Lin-Manuel is their leader. My favorite deeply inside joke was one of the animated bad guys bore a striking resemblance to the evil rat in The Secret of NIMH, which was created by Don Bluth, a Disney escapee. There are a lot of great cameos, my favorite being Meryl Streep’s number. No one sings with a steep accent like her.

Now to the biggest question of all: can Emily Blunt sing? Yes. She sings, she dances okay and can even do that nifty roll-the-hat-up-the-arm-and-onto-your-head thing that all actors are required to do at some point in their career. Unfortunately for her, she’s reprising a character sung by the best voice of the twentieth century. Despite having a wicked cool dimple and being one of my favorite of all time actresses, I couldn’t help comparing her with Julie Andrews and having her come up a touch short.  All things considered, that’s not too shabby.

I recommend seeing this because it’s loads of fun. It’s colorful and fantastical like the original, with a story that shouldn’t upset your kids and some really fun music and dance numbers. I for one smiled and laughed out loud and had no inclination to sing along because I don’t ever sing.


Mary Poppins Returns – Official Website

Mary Poppins Returns – IMDB

Mary Poppins Returns – Wikipedia

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