arteejee

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Sunday, January 06, 2019

Mary Poppins Returns


It is with some delight that in these days, when at least one person can’t take the hint that’s he worn out his welcome, we can report that another wonderful person from our distant past has come back.  It is nice, and yes comforting, to see the fairy godmother of the Banks children descend once again to save them.  This time it’s the next generation Banks offspring who need assistance.  If only she could save the rest of us from the world around us.  Alas, that is too big of a job even for her.

Emily Blunt inherited the role of the iconic nanny from Julie Andrews, and proves to be every bit as stern, then whimsical as the original. She cleans, she dances, she tucks her charges in at night, even as the original children she nannied are now grown and too busy being adults to enjoy quality time with their children.  

The plot has Michael (Ben Witshaw stretching his acting chops away from his role as the young, geeky, tech genius Q in the James Bond franchise) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) fending off the foreclosure wolves at the door of the Banks homestead.  Yes, the plot is a relic from the dustbins of Victorian Era melodramas, but who notices in the midst of all the dazzling special effects?  The story resolution is telegraphed rather early on when Michael finds his old kite in the attic as he searches for his father’s bank bonds which could save them from eviction.  Even then, it takes a while for everyone to figure out that the solution could have been flying in front of their faces the entire time. 
 
Present throughout the proceedings is Jack (Lin-Manual Miranda), a lamplighter.  He goes about London turning off gas street lamps in the morning, turning them up again at dusk, and always available to accompany Mary Poppins and the Banks children on their fantastical adventures.  I’m still trying to figure out when the poor fellow gets to sleep.

So, while Papa Banks frets, the nanny and the children have a grand old time in alternate universes via the family bathtub and a piece of pottery that was priceless to the children’s late mother.  The young ones discovering Mary Poppins for the first time will be amused by the animated penguins in one of the fantasies, while their parents will lose themselves in the nostalgia when they first saw these same penguins over 50 years ago.

These side trips into the fantastical is a lesson for the Banks children (both generations) and the film audience (all generations) that everything is possible, even the impossible.  Boy, do we need to keep this lesson in mind, especially this year!

Unfortunately, the side trips must come to an end, crises must be confronted, plots must be resolved and kites must be flown.  The finale, a mad midnight (or is it really midnight?) dash to the office of the greedy bank officer (Colin Firth) who covets the Banks homestead is not subtle, but damn it’s exciting.

The production is delightful, the songs catchy but not memorable, and the performances are full of surprises.  To be fair, the songs only seem less memorable to me because as a child I played the soundtrack of the original Mary Poppins film to death. I could probably do the same now with the soundtrack from Mary Poppins Returns, but I’m too busy doing adult things.  Let the young ones discover and cherish the current production for their memories.

Mary Poppins Returns both adds to and points out glaring flaws of the original.  According to Disney, the whole populace of Victorian London was portrayed in the original Mary Poppins as lily-white.  Mary Poppins Returns shows a London that is multi-cultural.  Kudos to The Disney Company for finally seeing the light of diversity after 50 years!

Among the surprises are a turn by Meryl Streep as Mary Poppins' aunt whose life is literally upside down, not unlike Ed Wynn’s Uncle Albert in the original.  And it is so nice to see Navckid Keyd in only his second film role in over 50 years.  (Yes, that’s an in-joke.)  His cameo was long awaited and saved (strategically) for near the end.

And in the end?  Everyone with a pure heart gets to float up into the atmosphere, while the purest of them all leaves the wretched refuse of humanity behind.  Yes, she leaves us all again and we are teary-eyed at the realization that us and the world around us are not good enough for the likes of Mary Poppins.

Please, Mary Poppins, don’t make us wait another 50 years to come back.

(Thank you for reading.  Next sequel: Mary Poppins Meets Hitler.)

7 Comments:

Anonymous Old Lurker said...

It's true. I am pretty bad at picking up on hints.

January 6, 2019 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

I'm looking forward to this one. I had a traumatic relationship with the original Mary Poppins movie when I was a kid. Perhaps I'll blog about it.

January 6, 2019 at 11:12 PM  
Blogger Raybeard said...

I came out of this as if on a cloud. It more than met my expectations and hopes, and it did so by a wide margin. Unfortunately it seems that I may be in a minority, at least over here, with more and more saying how it doesn't compare with the 1964 original. Maybe it helps my being one who was never quite as enamoured of the Julie Andrews as some have been (although I did QUITE like it).
I thought Emily Blunt was ideal as M.P., a bit more abrasive than before, but that not being out of character. And Lin-M.M. rather endearing as eternally cheerful chappie Jack - much moreso than Dick v.D. was who, despite his 'talents' rather got up my nose a bit - though not with his brief but welcome cameo in this. (Brw: Have you noticed how, when Lin-M. M. talks to someone he doesn't turn his head to look at them but moves his eyes sideways? Thought that was rather cute.)
I felt the new songs well captured the spirit of the original Sherman brothers classics, and they were generally strong songs. Whether they'll ever become quite as familiar, though, as the first one's is doubtful as the means of playing such music has so shifted over half a century, but I do think they deserve to be given more attention.
I'm glad you enjoyed the film on something like the same level as I did. You're right, it was a tonic which we, in these dark, turbulent times, need more than ever. I await the sequel to the sequel - with or without Der Fuhrer!.

January 7, 2019 at 2:38 AM  
Blogger Deedles said...

I think I will pass on this one until it comes on television. I found the original to be very boring. I used to wonder what was wrong with me, then I figured, heck I like most musicals and I love Julie Andrews so I can pass on one or two of these things.

January 7, 2019 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Dave R said...

I thought it was very entertaining, but having seen the first as a very impressionable 12 year old I have to say it didn't steal my heart. Ben was good, Lin-Manuel was terrific. "Trip the Light Fantastic" was the best song and will probably get an Oscar Nom.

January 7, 2019 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Sorry Old Lurker, I wasn't thinking of you when I made that reference.

We'll keep an eye out for your comments Debra.

I had not noticed the side eye glances from Lin-M, Raybeard. I would attribute that to his stage acting training. Did you notice Richard Sherman's credit as music consultant?

No problem waiting for it, Deedles. It'll probably play just as well. I've always enjoyed Julie Andrews, even when Cook and Moore used her name as a punchline in Bedazzled.

I'm hoping at least one song will be nominated, Dave R. "Trip" will be a fine nomnation.

January 8, 2019 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Raybeard said...

Yes, I did indeed notice the surviving Sherman as 'consultant' in the opening credits, RTG, though I already knew it beforehand - and it gave me heart. I thought it quite extraordinary how the 'new' composers have managed to retain absolutely the spirit of the original's songs. Some of them, even MOST of them, fully deserve to have a long life outside this film.

January 9, 2019 at 2:01 AM  

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