Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Mary Poppins Returns (2018) - Review

Continuing on with Disney's not-so-perfect track record for sequels, Mary Poppins does make a comeback in a step-by-step retread of the original that ends up trailing in every aspect.

The original Mary Poppins came out in 1964, and was the technological marvel of its time; it used the sodium vapor process - a yellow screen technique - to superimpose live action onto animation. It was the first live action Disney movie nominated for an Oscar in best picture, and the incomparable Julie Andrews won the best actress award (over competition from Audrey Hepburn's role in My Fair Lady). Sherman brothers also well-deservedly won two Oscars for best song and score for their timeless masterpiece.

After 54 years, Mary Poppins returned in 2018. Emily Blunt in the titular role is the highlight of the movie, although, I was not a big fan of her accent - wish she had used her own regular English accent rather than the gimmicky one that is supposed to be reflective of the time. Blunt has stated in the interviews that she based her character on the books rather than Julie Andrews' portrayal. Emily Blunt managed to pull off the more strict personality that she was aiming for, but whenever she smiled, the drill-sergeant facade fell down and she showed a sweet and giddy little girl. Maybe that was intentional... The dissonance was confusing to me though.

The rest of the movie is just a copy of the original. Lin Manuel Miranda is a lamplighter that substituted for Dick Van Dyke's Bert the chimney sweep - with an equally ridiculous cockney accent. Other copied elements are: an animated sequence, a cruel banker as the antagonist, a visit to one of Mary's wacky relatives, a sad slow song that's supposed to be profound, a choreographed street dance with 20+ dancers, and a dramatic resolution to the conflict at the 11th hour.

Other than the subpar imitation of the original, perhaps the biggest sin of Mary Poppins Returns (2018) was the forgettable music. As I left the theatre, I found myself humming the tunes from the 1964 original rather than the movie that I had just seen!

I hope Disney does a better job if they want to make more sequels to Mary Poppins in the future. I'd give it a 6/10, although it deserves a lower score, just because Mary Poppins Returns made me reminisce my childhood memories from the original.

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