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5 Reasons Mary Poppins Returns Doesn’t Fly

December 21, 2018

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I wanted to like Mary Poppins Returns. I really did. I tried hard to enjoy it while I was watching it, and it was almost fun. But not quite. It was fun-adjacent. It’s not not fun. But it’s not fun. Why not? Let me count the reasons.

  1. The old people and the kids are great; everyone in between, not so much. The undeniable highlights of Mary Poppins Returns are the musical numbers featuring Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury and Dick Van Dyke. The problem is they only get one number each, and they all come relatively late in the two-hour-plus film. Julie Walters (as the Banks’ aging maid), David Warner (as their nutty neighbor) are good, but peripheral. The kids who play the three Banks children are all adorable; not great singers nor dancers, but adorable. That leaves everyone else, like…
  2. Emily Blunt is too blunt. She got the snippy part right but forgot the character’s charm (or maybe the script did). Granted, Julie Andrews leaves some big boots to fill, but Blunt lacks magic. She doesn’t enter the film soon enough, and when she does, she doesn’t really advance the plot. She does a few tricks here and there, but she’s mostly an observer. Yes, Mary Poppins Returns… but she doesn’t do much.
  3. Lin-Manuel Miranda is miscast. His British accent makes Dick Van Dyke’s legendarily awful Cockney brogue in the original sound like Sir Laurence Olivier. The songs, which are mostly forgettable, don’t suit his Hamiltonian vocal style either. And he has negative chemistry with Emily Mortimer as the grown Jane Banks.
  4. The plot doesn’t pay off. It’s a rather depressing story about financial anxiety: The grown Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw, trying his best) is about to lose his home to the bank. If I wanted to worry about the economy, I would’ve stayed home and watched CNN. And Colin Firth is so over-the-top as the evil banker, you feel sorry for his mustache because he twists it so much.
  5. It’s all too paint-by-numbers. You can hear the gears grinding as the Disney machine makes sure the sequel checks every box of beloved moments from the original. Animated/live action hybrid musical sequence? Check. (But it makes no sense.) Nonsense song, a la “Supercalifragilisticexpialodocious”? Check. (But it’s not catchy.) Mary Poppins even looks in the mirror at one point and pronounces herself “Practically perfect in every way.” Therein lies the problem: Mary Poppins Returns is imperfect in practically every way.

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