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Mary Poppins Returns is a weird movie. But not necessarily weird, in terms of what happens in it—if you’re watching a sequel to Mary Poppins not expecting a few weird set pieces, you’re watching for the wrong reasons. But weird in the sense that... I’m not entirely sure if it’s a good film. It’s certainly engaging enough, and it has a few cards up its sleeve, but generally, I’m not sure if it was the right movie for me to review.
25 years after the first film, the Banks children are all grown up and, in fact, Michael has three children of his own. However, with Michael’s wife passing away and a loan repayment looming, the family must find the proof that the Banks own shares in the bank, lest they get their house repossessed and end up homeless. As she is one to do, Mary Poppins appears as all seems bleak and, with the help of a lamplight who was an apprentice to Bert from the first film, tries to help save the Banks from eviction.
I describe this plot as if it’s a crucial part of the film, but it really isn’t. It’s hollow and paper thin with basically no tangible stakes. The film is incredibly toothless, with no real suspense from the underwhelming, one-dimensional caricatures forced to give compelling performances without any palpable danger. It’s hard to get invested in this family issue because the film doesn’t seem interested in it; it’s a bridging narrative, nothing more.
What the film is interested in, however, is extravagant musical numbers and tickling your nostalgia glands until they burst. Let’s talk about the characters of Mary and Jack, as these are the important characters for the film. They’re phenomenal. Emily Blunt brings a level of genuine mischievousness to the character and creates a hugely compelling presence on screen, while remaining true to the original depiction. This was my first exposure to Lin-Manuel Miranda (as I have a rule not to listen to musical soundtracks before seeing it performed, if I can help it), but he does a great job: Likable, charming, and clearly very talented; just as much as Blunt is, in fact. These two single-handedly save this film and make it even remotely worth watching.
Unfortunately, everything else surrounding these characters is lukewarm at best. Some of the set designs are interesting, but would feel more so as a live-action stage show. The musical numbers are good, while they’re there, but only one or two do I actually remember after watching, and one of them because it’s basically the underpinning song for the whole film. The supporting cast is forgettable, and don’t really get any chance to shine in such a generally bland plot. A huge amount of these issues aren’t overly damaging because the film knows what it does best are the scenes with Mary Poppins and Jack, but every other aspect of the film feels so toothless and dumbed down as to be bland.
Mary Poppins Returns is not good at building suspense or captivating an audience when it comes to the main focus of the story. I don’t think that’s an unfair point to make; Colin Firth is an empty suit pretending to be a villainous presence and there’s no investment whatsoever because all of the characters are wet flannels, for lack of a better term. Complete drips, every one of them. Luckily for the film, that’s not where its biggest strength lies.
MPR’s biggest strength is how genuine it feels. The perfect word to describe this movie is “pleasant.” It really does seem to be so unfathomably happy to have you watching that it wants to bend over backwards to show you how much it cares. There are a couple of cameos, which show some genuine appreciation for the source material, and the film feels like a labour of love. While it’s hard to believe this film was made 100 percent because everyone wanted to tell the story and that the potential for big buck$$$ didn’t cross their minds, it definitely makes itself FEEL as if that is the case. I’ve been trying to think about a good analogy for the film, and the best one I could come up with is this:
Mary Poppins Returns is like a wotsit—enjoyable because of how cheesy it is, but insubstantial and easily forgettable once it’s gone.
There, I hope that adequately informs your decision as to whether or not this film is worth your time. While you’re watching it, it feels better than it actually is. I’m giving the film two stars, but with the asterisk that it feels more like a two and a half or a three while it’s happening.
Thanks a bunch for reading my second review. I'm hoping to be better at this as time goes by. If you enjoyed, please consider sharing the review around, reading the other stories I've put up here, or even tipping me if you liked it THAT much! (Special thanks to the anonymous tipper from my last review, by the way.) Otherwise, as always, the video review is linked at the top and I'll see you next time!