Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
December 25, 2018 7:50 PM - Subscribe

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.

Charles Bramesco for the AV Club: “It’s the Poppins we know and love, back to restore our dimming sense of childlike amazement—on behalf of a gargantuan, sinister corporation currently waging a campaign to mechanically extract every available dollar from our earliest memories. ... It’s less heartwarming than heart-microwaving.”

Linda Holmes for NPR: “A Fine And Fresh Take On A Classic” ... “Emily Blunt, so often the best thing in everything she touches, is a wonder in this role.”

Manohla Dargis for the New York Times: “...the people who made this largely charmless venture with its hard-smiling nanny might have created something memorable, even good and hummable if they had turned it over to [Lin-Manuel] Miranda.”

Yondu Udonta for the Ravagers: “I'm Mary Poppins, y'all!”
posted by D.Billy (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It’s a good movie. I enjoyed it and I thought lots of it worked very well. Emily Blunt is tremendously good, and her Mary Poppins felt a little more imposing than Julie Andrews.
The musical numbers are good too, but there’s nothing here as memorable as the original.

It’s a good point in the NYT about Miranda. Who knows if he was available to write music for this, with all the stuff he’s doing, but his songs in Moana are better than any of these.

This needed some songs that could stand up next to “Spoonful of Sugar” and et cetera, and that is an impossible demand.

(Also the Meryl Streep number needed to be cut)
posted by chrchr at 11:44 PM on December 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

I had fun (Blunt in particular was excellent), but they were so specious about treading the same path as the original that it feels like more of a remake than a sequel. The Force Awakens for movie musicals, except without a shared story to move forward, which makes it that much more disposable. Still well-made, but much more ephemeral than it might have been. Also, I too wondered as soon as the opening credits rolled why Miranda wasn't on songwriting duty.

Standout song: "A Cover Is Not The Book." I don't feel like that's especially controversial. Bottom of the barrel for me was "Light Fantastic," which had the germ of a good idea (the kids get lost and lamplighter Jack helps them find their way) but got bogged down in the need to reprise the "Step In Time" group dance number from the 1964 film. And bicycle tricks. And...rhyming slang?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:55 AM on December 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

I saw this yesterday with my parents (80's) and son (14) and we all agreed it was enjoyable. It had a very old-school disney feel, but didn't avoid modern effects (especially the bathtub scene) where helpful.

I thought that maybe there was a song or two too many (the tuck-in song about missing things took all the wind out of the dramatic nightmare chase scene for instance) and I couldn't help but wonder about the Meryl Streep scene (I guess it was from the books?), it seemed more like a scene from bedknobs and broomsticks, but perhaps they are in the "same universe" so to speak.

Overall I thought it was just the homage to the original that i would expect from disney, but i found myself humming songs from the original afterword.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:40 AM on December 26, 2018

My son's excellent take on this movie: "Intensely whimsical."
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 12:35 PM on December 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is Miranda any good as a performer? I watched a clip from the film in which he was dancing and rapping/singing and... I’m certainly no expert, but it struck me as kind of stiff and amateurish.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:49 PM on December 26, 2018

(This is the clip.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:53 PM on December 26, 2018

For the role he was cast to play he was fine. Dick Van Dyke played it over the top and talked/sang in the original, so the Miranda take isn't far from that. I certainly didn't find him distracting.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:53 PM on December 26, 2018

The plot of the sequel felt like it had the same narrative structure, beat for beat, as the original. This got to be comical to the point of distraction toward the end, but is actually very faithful to the two Mary Poppins books I’ve read (dunno if there are more), which are also comically similar in structure. Not an excellent movie but I think an excellent version of what it was trying to be. And Blunt is a better Poppins than Andrews was.

There are some vignettes I was hoping to see but didn’t. The bit with stars made it into the stage version but not into either movie and it’s a good bit IMO. I loved what they did with the bowl - that was some wonderful animation.
posted by eirias at 5:52 PM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think the A/V Club review is exactly right! While I was really impressed with the individual components of the movie - the sets and costumes are gorgeous, the songs are fun, the animation clever and colorful, Emily Blunt is flawless -- still, I ended up feeling manipulated, not moved. For a movie that is supposed to be about the wonder and glory of imagination, it leaves nothing to the imagination. I feel like I was force fed 2 hours of whimsy and it was 90 minutes more than I could swallow.
posted by pjsky at 9:14 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Agreed with much of what's already been stated. I knew it could never touch the original but I appreciated that they went into it with clearly a lot of love for it (hand drawn animation!), if hewing a little too closely to it. I was surprised at how emotional it actually did make me, though, which was mostly due to Ben Wishaw's performance as a grieving widower. I'm glad I saw it but I found myself singing Let's Go Fly a Kite and couldn't remember any of the new songs. I knew about Dick Van Dyke but Angela Lansbury's appearance made me gasp with joy because I had no clue she was going to be in it.
posted by acidnova at 12:48 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I liked it. I've never actually seen the original although I've seen clips and know the music so maybe it doesn't compare to that classic but as a standalone film, it works well enough. The plot is pretty generic (I mean it's the same plot as The Blues Brothers) but it's serviceable enough for a lightweight musical.

I'm a little surprised at how negative some of the reviews are.
posted by octothorpe at 5:25 PM on December 27, 2018

I had fun (Blunt in particular was excellent), but they were so specious about treading the same path as the original that it feels like more of a remake than a sequel. The Force Awakens for movie musicals, except without a shared story to move forward, which makes it that much more disposable. Still well-made, but much more ephemeral than it might have been. Also, I too wondered as soon as the opening credits rolled why Miranda wasn't on songwriting duty.

Hm, yeah, pretty much. It was an enjoyable few hours, if pretty literally a rehash in some respects. I did feel for poor Michael and his situation and kind of did a double take when they suddenly had the entire house cleaned out. I liked the kids and how they were the responsible ones in the house. Little George looks like an older version of a baby cousin of mine.

The ending, dear lord, deus ex machina there. I kept thinking things like, "Hey, maybe the magical nanny should be the one to fly up and fix Big Ben?" and "I'm sure the bank manager could say "If you ripped up your stock, it doesn't count," and the whole "let's fly the kite up there" thing.... OY. And then in the end DVD comes in and is all, "Hey, you made a LOT of interest on your tuppence, it's all good, let's dance on the desk!"

It was fun, I was pretty much there for LMM and my mom wanting to see it. Emily Blunt's Poppins sounds more like P.L. Travers's as far as I can tell so maybe PLT's not rolling in her grave quite as much as usual?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:04 PM on December 27, 2018

The ending was only sliiiiiiiiiiiightly more deus-ex than the first movie, though, so by that point I was expecting about that amount of nonsense.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:11 AM on December 28, 2018

I feel a bit like people's varying reactions depend on whether some of the holes in the movie are weaknesses or amusing (maybe even inadvertent) parallels to the original. Like, LMM's skill set is clearly (1) writer, (2) six-sigma-outlier theater nerd, (3) singer ... (n) dancer, so obviously he's going to get out-danced by every single backup dancer AND 93-year-old Dick van Dyke and stand on a lamp post while everybody else dances. But Dick van Dyke batted about .500 on sung pitches in the original, so that's a match! Ditto the accent which I can only imagine is LMM paying tribute to one horrific accent with another. The ending is the rare double-deus-ex-machina but as Zarquon says above that's just one-upping the original.

Also Emily Blunt is so fantastic that really very little else matters.
posted by range at 9:16 AM on December 28, 2018

Also Returns doesn't have its Mr. Banks kill a man in its whimsical finale, so that's a point in its favor.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:36 AM on December 28, 2018

deus ex machina
Dick ex machina, please.

My wife and I saw this on Christmas Eve. I only saw the original a few years ago and didn't like it much at all, aside from the songs, many of which are classics. This one struck me more as an exercise in proving Disney can still make "Disney movies" than as a legitimate film in its own right. Miranda completely wasted. The family comes to terms with losing their house, and it's a great moment to learn that it's the people that are important, the actual building is irrelevant... and then they proceed to excitedly follow up their last chance get it back? (BTW, I leaned over to my wife and whispered "that's the stock certificate" when the kid picked up the drawing.) And Mary Poppins can fly the whole time, so what was even the point of the lamplighters climbing Big Ben?

My wife's reaction was that she had forgotten how "cheesy" the original was, but that she should have expected this to be similar, and hadn't. She didn't care for it.

Basically this is a film targeted at children, not at adults who loved the original when they were kids, but it lacks the things that children would find charming or even understand, and is rated PG to boot.

The bath sequence was visually impressive and Blunt was good. The balloon sequence went on way too long and and the director clearly was struggling to find ways to make repeated similar shots of people floating through the sky somehow look different from each other.

Rating: Meh.
posted by kindall at 10:10 AM on December 28, 2018

Basically this is a film targeted at children, not at adults who loved the original when they were kids,

I'm not sure how you can say that when you just admitted you didn't see it as a kid. I did see the original as a kid (in the 60's) and would say that it is exactly targeted at my generation. The theater was packed with adults sans kids the night we saw it.

Love or hate Disney, they pretty much make hay on nostalgia. The new Lion King is absolutely banking on all of the people who saw the original as a kid going to see whether the new one holds up, and the same goes with Dumbo. Sure, they are all kids' movies, but they compete mightily with other kids' franchises because the parents are nostalgic as well.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:24 AM on December 28, 2018

I'm not sure how you can say that when you just admitted you didn't see it as a kid.
Because it's not mature enough for adults. Kids don't care that the plot makes no sense. Adults do.
posted by kindall at 10:45 AM on December 28, 2018

If you're going to get upset about a plot that makes no sense, maybe half-animated fantasy musicals aren't your thing.
posted by octothorpe at 11:15 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Well... probably not. But I wouldn't go so far as to say I was upset at the plot; I just had higher expectations, given that this was a follow-up to a classic.
posted by kindall at 2:36 PM on December 28, 2018

The film surprised me in that I genuinely felt a bored through so much of it (and I'm a total Disney/musical dork). There were some delightful moments (the china bowl animation!), but most of it was a big ol' "meh" since it felt like it could have easily been a Disney Channel movie than a huge theater release.

However, we can all agree that Ben Whishaw was incredible and brought a much needed depth and gravitas to the film, right? I utterly loved his scenes with Emily Mortimer, so much so that I want a spin-off about Jane and Michael growing up post-Poppins just so I could see more of their dynamic

(While everyone is gushing over Emily Blunt, and rightly so, I still have heart-eyes for Emily Mortimer's exuberant take on Jane -- and her amazing pantsuits! My head-canon is that, as cute as the whole Jack/Jane thing was, Jane is actually a "confirmed bachelorette" and therefore skews queer, and the Disney overlords can fight me on that.)
posted by paisley sheep at 2:46 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

"Jane is actually a "confirmed bachelorette" and therefore skews queer, and the Disney overlords can fight me on that.)"

I assumed she was a lesbian until they brought up the Jack thing and then I was all "oh, yeah, Disney."

Here is an interview about authentic Cockney rhyming slang.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:41 PM on December 28, 2018

The true beauty of both the original Mary Poppins and Peter Pan stories is that they show us how important it is to keep a childlike spirit of wonder and awe in the face of adult tragedies. The new Mary Poppins managed this with the beautiful song about "where the lost things go." But the rest of the film was just large dollops of whipped cream added on top of 3" thick icing. I am appalled every time I read a take on Peter Pan that puts forth the idea that we should all aspire to "never grow up." NO! That's not it at all. It's that we should never forget what it's like to be a child. And with Mary Poppins too. In the original movie (and in the books) she shows the children how to use their imaginations to turn drudgery into fun. How to see a frail, elderly vagrant woman feeding birds, not as a nuisance, but as a benevolent old soul we should want to help. Children have the most extraordinary ability to immerse themselves in play. With a little help from a caring adult they can turn a kite or a balloon into an airborne adventure. This new movie made every song/dance LITERAL instead of relying on the REAL magic, which is how Mary Poppins led the children to use their imaginations to create a magical world of dancing, bmx riding lamp lighters. GrrrrrArrrgghhhh /rant over
posted by pjsky at 7:53 AM on December 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

goddamnit no my rant is NOT over

When Jane and Michael at the end of the movie proclaim "Oh my goodness, it REALLY DID all happen! We didn't imagine it!" I wanted to scream. Again, the whole point of Mary Poppins is to teach the children to experience wonderful things in their hearts and minds. The only way you will experience "literal" Mary Poppins' magic is to visit Disney World. And there you have it. This movie was a 2+ hour commercial.
posted by pjsky at 8:03 AM on December 29, 2018

I was disappointed mostly. I’m a huge Disney fan and husband and I and kids all loved the original movie. This one had some wonderful parts-the China bowl animation, the clothes and sets! Emily and LM were great. But it was a good half hour too long-and the end. My husband can’t stop ranting about how they were saved because the kids put the tuppence in the bank, and didn’t feed the birds-saved by compound interest! Completely contrary to the message of the original.
posted by purenitrous at 10:19 PM on December 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I still have heart-eyes for Emily Mortimer's exuberant take on Jane -- and her amazing pantsuits!

We had just watched part of original Mary Poppins a few days before seeing this and Emily Mortimer really nailed the mannerisms of young Jane. Also, yes, the pantsuits! And the clothing when they're on the bowl! Sandy Powell, the costume designer, will probably get more award recognition for her incredible work on The Favourite but her designs here were fantastic, too.

Other than that, I didn't really enjoy this one. Despite the best efforts of the two Emilys (Emilies?) and the spectacular production design, the story felt mostly cold, charmless, and heavy-handed.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 7:30 AM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was torn on this one.

- Everyone involved clearly loved the original and that came through really strongly.
- Cast was mostly excellent - Blunt and Wishaw were outstanding I thought
- Production design was very pretty and animation was great
- Plot was a little so-so, good set up but it was executed inconsistently - the arcs were there but just not executed well.
- The direction was fine.

But, as a musical, the songs mostly stank I thought. Or, not stank, but just evaporated into a kind of Poppinsy pastiche, I couldn't hum the melody from a single one and I literally just got out. My daughter (god help me) is obsessed with Greatest Showman at the moment. It is without a doubt an inferior film on just about every level, but the songs - whilst still not the best in the world - are so much more memorable, and emotional, than this. Didn't even get close to Chim-Chim-Cheree (A surprisingly technical song! We had the pianobook, and it was a son of a gun to play.

Character got subsumed a bit to syrupy homage, and the movie was best when it moved away from that, e.g. Blunt's slightly different take on the Poppins character.
posted by smoke at 9:45 PM on December 31, 2018

Oh one other thing - I wonder if the adult grade I (we) are imposing on this is literally unachievable. Mary Poppins was one of about 4 movies we had on VHS as a kid and I watched it innumerable times.

I downloaded and played it for my kids a couple of days ago, and they *did not* care for it (the little one: Daddy I thought this would be interesting, but it's actualling boooorwing"). Even as an adult, I was forced to note the leisurely pacing (a flaw the update suffers from), indifferent cinematography.

I wonder, if surrounded by the cornucopia of media kids have access to now, if I would love Mary Poppins the way I do.
posted by smoke at 9:48 PM on December 31, 2018

Thinking further, sorry for the multi posts, but the movie is so concerned with the spirit of the original, it forgets to have it's own.

E.g think of Mary Poppins:
Unhappy house -
1. The kids want someone looking after them who is fun, and pretty etc etc, and make their dad fun
2. Mr Banks wants someone to look after the kids who will teach them obedience and discipline.
- Mary comes in, and does both.

Think of Mary Poppins returns:
Unhappy house -
1. The kids want.... what exactly? Not a nanny - they... don't want to lose their house? Want their dad to be fun, but actually he seems pretty nice to them most of the time? Want their dad to parent them again so they don't have to be the grown ups? But that clashes with their dad being fun?
2. Jane and Michael want... Well Jane doesn't seem to want anything really? Michael wants his dead wife and house back? Has to learn to let go, but also gets his house back at the end?
- Mary Poppins comes in and... takes the kids on a series of adventures to teach them to have fun again, I guess? But their resistance evaporates on literally the day she meets them and the first adventure they have.

It's messy thematically, unstructured, inelegant. And that messiness permeates the movie.
posted by smoke at 10:01 PM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I loved the cameo of original Jane (Karen Dotrice)! She's the lady who asks for directions to #19 Cherry Tree Lane, and replies, "Many thanks... sincerely" (which certainly caught my ear at the moment) but I didn't know til the credits that it was OG Jane Banks. Emily Mortimer was perfect as adult Jane, IMO. All the kids were wonderful and Ben Whislaw was just amazing. Called it on Chris O'Dowd and Mark Addy as V/O for the horse and coachman in Pottery Bowl land!

I also loved the throwback sharp-angled old-school animation style. I think I was in the minority, though. But I really liked it.

I know better, but DAMN did they blow the chance for the best possible cameo by not having Julie Andrews be, oh, I dunno... the current 'Feed the Birds' woman? How cool would that have been??

I loved the Streep number; it was very much in the same vein as "I love to laugh" in the original. There were many parallels; "this is a different thing but just like _____ from the original" was said many times in my head. Not sure I minded all that much though...

LMM must be one of those performers who is better live than on film, maybe? He presented a mood and a demeanor and it never evolved one bit. Pleasant, charming, but that was all.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 10:57 AM on January 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed it a lot as a kind of conversation with the first movie. There, the children needed discipline - here, the children are parentified and need to see that magic exists and someone will take care of them. Some scenes and especially copycat music numbers fell flat, plus that clock-climbing made no sense, but the ending number was just the right kind of whimsy and left me with a big smile.

(Lin was clearly cast for his ability to look at his scene partners with wide-eyed wonder.)
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:25 AM on January 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I read somewhere that Julie Andrews turned down the offer to do a cameo.
posted by octothorpe at 1:24 PM on January 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

This new movie made every song/dance LITERAL instead of relying on the REAL magic, which is how Mary Poppins led the children to use their imaginations to create a magical world of dancing, bmx riding lamp lighters.

How long has it been since you saw the original? We watched the original this morning before going to see Returns. The original has children levitating objects when they snap their fingers, people jumping into paintings with animated talking animals, people floating in the air when they laugh, and walking up magical stairs made of smoke.

Mrs. Fleebnork and I enjoyed it, her more than me, and our 7 year old son loved it too. Emily Blunt did a fine job. Miranda was mild but pleasant enough.

Sure, it doesn’t live up to the original but how could it? We found it pleasant enough and it made us smile.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:32 PM on January 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I saw the original when it came out in 1964, and I still remember the music and most of the words to the songs more than 50 years later. I saw the new one last week, but a week later I do not remember a single shred of music from it. And I found Whishaw's role (and the pathos-ridden framing story in general) totally contrary to the spirit of Mary Poppins. But other than that I loved it. Marshall's direction and choreography are spot on, and everyone except Whishaw hits exactly the right notes.
posted by ubiquity at 12:47 PM on January 3, 2019

Just watched on Netflix. The original was the very first movie I saw—very first anything in color as we had a black and white TV. I am sure that really magical experience has “colored” my feelings about this one. I found it soulless and awful. The songs were boring and not at all memorable. Many favorite actors painful to watch. The sets and costumes were great but the plot was terrible and the acting seemed forced. Meryl Streep scene was a horror. I watched to the disappointing end to give it a full chance. Ugh.
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:03 AM on July 13, 2019

Also just watched on Netflix. Emily Blunt was Amazing! Her Mary was so... haughty? Angry? Dangerous? Defiant? Confident? Gah! Could not keep my eyes off her.

As for the rest - all the critiques above; forgettable songs, no true motivation etc.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:23 PM on August 24, 2019

It's on Disney+ now.

Kind of all of the above: it's fine; the songs aren't as memorable; it meanders (like what was the point of the whole getting-the-bowl-mended thing?) but then again so does the original.

Emily Blunt was great. LMM ... kinda stunk! It feels like post-Hamilton there's been a push of "he's very charismatic on stage so let's put him on screen" and yeah, no, he just isn't a screen actor; when he's not singing he's a bit wooden, a bit stilted.

(And I wonder if LMM's limitations were partly why he got shunted into the earthly and not-particularly-believable romance with Jane; in the original you definitely get the feeling that Mary and Bert, both being other-worldly, are definitely GETTING THEIR FANTASY FREAK ON every time the kids are asleep.)

The climbing-Big-Ben thing gave me the heebie-jeebies although I did like the payoff of the Admiral having been on Poppins Standard Time all along.

I liked sad-eyed grieving Ben Wishaw; Disney likes missing-parent stories but usually the remaining parent is all Strong and Capable and it felt unusual here that Michael got to break down and express that no, he's not doing OK and no, he doesn't know what to do.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:56 PM on January 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

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