We saw Mary Poppins Returns last night as a family, with my mother-in-law who came to visit from out of town, treating us to it. Grandma, all 5 kids at home (ages 20 to 9), my husband and I watched it. The verdict?
I loved it! DH loved it. Everyone loved it but my 14 year old. He said it was “disappointing.”
Before I go into why I loved it and why my son didn’t, here’s a bit of history about me and Mary Poppins. I loved the original. I’m pretty sure it was the second or third movie I ever saw in a real movie theater. The first was Disney’s Jungle Book. This was back in the day when movies couldn’t be seen anytime you wanted, with streaming on demand, Netflix, or even videos. I saw Mary Poppins while visiting my grandparents over summer vacation after my grandma talked my mom into letting me stay with my grandparents for an extended stay. So during this summer holiday time I saw Mary Poppins in the theater with a second cousin and immediately fell in love with it. When I became a mom in the 90s I bought a VHS copy of it when my oldest kids were 5, 3, and 1. Along with Cinderella, Robin Hood, Lady and the Tramp, and Dumbo. My youngest at the time, who is 20 now, watched it over and over. When he came home from his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it was the first movie he wanted to watch when we had our family movie night after he came home. I blogged about that over here.
Out of all the movies I’ve seen, it has had the most cultural influence on me and our family. If I had to go to a long meeting with a toddler, I would pack a bag full of lots of delights and call it my “Mary Poppins bag” so I felt fully, practically perfectly equipped. When I started giving my kids cod liver oil when they were young, every night, we called that “Mary Poppins time.” Whenever I had to clean up with my kids or do some other chore, I would think of how I could add a “spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.” The usual answer was to listen to some kind of audiobook. I thought the movie was magical and delightful. The movie did have a few parts I didn’t like though. I thought the “Feed the Birds” song was terribly boring and slow, even though I hear it was Walt’s favorite part. And I thought the part with the tea party on the ceiling and the Supercalifragilistic song were a tad too silly. And it bothered me that the mom wasn’t more involved with her kids, with her social activism distracting her. I never really thought about the truths of the movie shown in this Honest Mary Poppins trailer clip below. Like how Mary is a “full-blown narcissist” and the parents are so neglectful. It made me laugh. It’s also sad that the song about the suffragette movement calls men “stupid.”
OK, without further ado, here’s why I loved the new movie:
First, the costumes! Swoon! I loved the bright colors, the sweaters, the hats, Mary Poppins’ coat, her apron, and her swimsuit and dress in the fantasy scenes. Sigh. It was 1930s style of clothing. Sandy Powell, the same Disney costumer for the live action Cinderella, has done it again! It makes me want to go thrifting and buy even more bright, colorful nubby sweaters than I already have. Also a narrow-waisted dress coat with a double-layer cape to pop out against the gloomy London skies. I do have a bunch of sweaters that I have acquired while thrifting in the past years for $2 to $4 a piece which I’ve been wearing this past week to feel like I’m in the movie. They also give me the zippy contrast for the dreary weather we’ve had lately. Bright cozy sweaters are definitely a way to liven up winter. I’m grateful for this movie reminding me of that.
Next, the songs. All 27 of them were original. You can buy them here. My favorite was “Can You Imagine That?” which Mary and the children sing during the bathtime fantasy scene.
“The Cover is Not the Book,” is a cute song too but has a drawback. Emily Blunt, who played Mary, said in an interview this was a “bawdy vaudeville song,” I like that it promotes reading but not that it talks about a scantily clad woman. I really loved the lullaby “The Place Where the Lost Things Go.” So sweet.
Then we have the themes of family helping each other, finding joy and wonder in everyday life, and being adult and still keeping your inner child alive. What’s not to love about those?
I loved the dancing. Just as wonderful as the first.
The cast, for the most part, was fabulous. Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins was great, although, somehow, she has this smoldering look in her eyes sometimes, like she might burst into a cackle. She seems a bit of a sinister Mary Poppins. Maybe because she was filming another movie at the same time, as an addict? I’m not a connoisseur of Hollywood, however, so I don’t really know if someone else could have done a better job. Maybe it’s a Hmmm…maybe Julia Roberts? Probably not because I don’t think she sings and dances. But it would have been nice to see an older Mary Poppins who had actually aged and Julia kind of looks like Julie/Mary. Not that Julia looks very old, even though she hit the big 5-0 this past year. I wish we could have actually seen Julie Andrews reprise the role. I guess everyone has limits, and she is over 80 and doesn’t sing like she used to because of her botched vocal chord surgery.
She was so marvelous as Mary. That plus her role in The Sound of Music is the reason I’m pretty sure why half the girls in my public school years were named Julie, born in the early 70s. So I guess she felt too old to do it, so then maybe couldn’t we have the next best thing, like her daughter Emma play Mary? Apparently she’s not an actor either although she’s into the arts. Oh well. I was delighted to note that the original Jane, Karen Dotrice, had a cameo appearance as a passerby, listed in the credits as “Elegant Woman,” who asks the group of Mary, Jack, and the Banks children where 19 Cherry Tree Lane is. Lin-Manuel Miranda did a wonderful job as Jack, a lamplighter, who is kind-of the equivalent of Bert. Meryl Streep appears as Mary’s cousin, Topsy. Angela Lansbury appears at the end as The Balloon Lady, and Dick Van Dyke also has a cameo appearance as Mr. Dawes, Sr., the father of the non-Bert character he played in the original. It was actually him tap dancing on the desk, in the bank office, no stunt double, spryly, at age 93! Amazing! The three children who appeared as the new generation of Banks children were adorable although Georgie’s hair in his eyes bugged me in a few scenes. It’s probably meant to look stylish but I guess I’m old school and don’t like hair in eyes. I also wish that the children had looked more like actual siblings. Emily Mortimer as the grown-up Jane was perfect, she actually looked like the original Jane. The only one I quibble with is Michael. He didn’t really look like the original Michael at all, and I thought his mustache looked funny, like it was just so big it might fall off. But maybe it was real. He also didn’t stand up straight, with his neck sticking forward. Mary did tell him to stand up straight, so I guess the whole thing was part of the script because he was feeling depressed.
The ending scene is just so delightful. Go see it, and I dare you not to smile! Here’s the song to it. Don’t listen if you don’t want any hint of what happens!
What I didn’t like:
It would have been nice to see Jane married, with children, as well. The non-feminist in me wants to see that. Why do we have to be so PC that the grown-up Jane has no kids and the grown-up Michael does? The movie also has some inconsistencies. Like the fact that Mary Poppins picks up the snow globe containing the model of St. Paul’s cathedral in the nursery, but in the original movie, she packed it up and took it away when she left. Hmmm…maybe she brought it back, and we just don’t see her unpacking it. Also, in the sequel, she tells Georgie to throw away a pile of trash. If she’s so magic how come she didn’t know (spoiler alert: skip to the next paragraph if you want) that there was an important piece of paper in the trash? Or maybe she did? Also, even though it’s fun to watch, I feel a bit uncomfortable with the use of Mary Poppins’ magic. I’m not taking it too analytically. I’m saying to myself that the magic represents imagination and also the everyday magic around us of technology, God’s power, and God’s help that comes through angels in the form of friends.
What my son and a friend didn’t like about the movie:
I have a Facebook friend who saw it and he didn’t like it all. He says the plot was “extremely thin, the music forgettable and the conflict resolution lazy.” My 14 year old son said that the plot was just like the first one. I disagree. In the first movie, the family was falling apart psychologically. Mr. Banks was a workaholic patriarchal dictator, Mrs. Banks wasn’t involved much with the children either because she was into her outside cause, and the kids were supposedly brats who drove all their nannies away. So Mary Poppins saves the day by helping out all these problems. In the sequel, the family is falling apart physically with the threat of losing their home, so Mary Poppins and Jack help save the day by helping the family save the home. Different plots but similar.
Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 stars. Minus one star because of the slightly bawdy vaudeville mentioned above and the other drawbacks I just mentioned. Nonetheless, I left with a huge smile on my face. The world seemed more magical as we drove home. We stopped at the health food store on the way home to pick up more homeopathy remedy for one of the kids who still had a slight cold. One of my fellow customers spilled some beans from a bulk bin. An employee cheerfully started sweeping it up. Before she got to it, I half expected a broom to appear to start whisking away the mess by itself, and for all of us to start skipping as more magic brooms appeared to dance with us. I had been feeling sick and gloomy for the previous days, right after Christmas. So this movie was just the ticket to help me pull out my post-holiday slump. So go see it and take the whole family. You will probably love it. I can’t wait to get the DVD, which I hope will sport lots of bonus features.