Over the past few years, the trend of nostalgia has truly dominated the filmmaking industry. Moviegoers long to return to a simpler time, resulting in plenty of reboots and long awaited sequels. Disney has been cashing in on this trend through live-action remakes of its animated classics, although it’s going the traditional sequel route with Mary Poppins Returns.
Chicago director Rob Marshall is helming a musical blockbuster, which will serve as a direct follow up to the 1964 original. All eyes are on what Emily Blunt will do with the practically perfect title character, and now the first reviews for Mary Poppins Returns have hit the web. They’re generally positive, likely hinting at a strong box office performance for the Holiday season.
CinemaBlend’s own Sarah El-Mahmoud gave the movie one of those positive reviews, as she ultimately scored Mary Poppins Returns with an impressive 4.5 stars out of 5. She particularly praised how the sequel approached a dark subject matter, and made it accessible for all generations of moviegoers, saying:
Mary Poppins Returns tackles some strong themes of loss and what it means to grow up, but not too intensely or maturely. As the original did so gracefully, it’s one of those films that somehow can offer a different message to a range of audiences– it’s not just a ‘kids movie’ or a fix of nostalgia, it’s a radiant timeless tale audiences will long to fly with again and again.
CinemaBlend isn’t the only outlet that appreciated how Mary Poppins Returns broached the serious subject of loss and death in the film. Mary returns when The Banks family is mourning the loss of their wife/mother, and IGN‘s Laura Prudom praised the sequel’s way of telling this story, with:
What stands out most about Mary Poppins Returns is its heart; even more than the original, it opts for sentimentality over subtlety, but much like this year’s equally charming Paddington 2, its earnest intentions never tip it too far into eye-roll territory. Its life lessons may be a bit too on-the-nose for some adults, but it’s clear that now, just as in 1964, Mary Poppins still has plenty to teach us.
The issue is less the cast, which is largely quite good, and more the slavish devotion Marshall and the co-writers have to the original film’s structure without improving upon it. Even Blunt, who’s pretty solid, isn’t playing Mary Poppins as much as she’s playing Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins. Miranda, typically so winning (never more so than in his Broadway phenom Hamilton), feels mildly trapped by playing a newer version of the Cockney-accented chimney-sweep from the original. The arguable standout is Whishaw, who sells Michael Banks’ heartbreak at the loss of his wife as well as his desperate terror at losing his old family house. He sells it, in fact, so well that you get cognitive whiplash as the story shifts from Mary Poppins’ goofy nonsense to Michael struggling to be a single father.
The original Mary Poppins, for all its appeal, isn’t a work of musical genius. Earworms like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” might have trickled down from one generation to the next, but even the most cursed afflictions can be hereditary. Still, Mary Poppins Returns manages to shimmy under the low bar set by its predecessor. While composer Marc Shaiman (who co-wrote the lyrics with Scott Wittman) does a note-perfect job of recapturing the general Poppins vibe, there isn’t a memorable tune in the bunch; for better or worse, you won’t be haunted by these songs.
That entrance establishes Emily Blunt right off the bat as a worthy successor to Julie Andrews. With her crisp diction, ramrod-straight posture and no-nonsense air, she swiftly dismisses the gawping stares and bewildered questions of her former charges, the now-grownup Banks siblings Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer). There’s preening vanity beneath Blunt’s bossiness, but also unmistakable warmth as she marshals recently widowed Michael’s three children — precocious twins John and Annabel (Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies) and their more impressionable younger brother Georgie (Joel Dawson) — with brisk commands like “Pish-posh,” “Spit-spot” or “Jiggety-jog.”
Mary Poppins Returns will arrive in theaters on December 19th. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your trips to the movies in the New Year.