By: Joie LaRiviere
Disney’s had their Renaissance, their classics, their loveable films that most of us have had the pleasure of growing up with. And, since Disney knows how loved their films are, they have begun to revisit them. Yes, we have entered the age of live-action Disney. Otherwise known as the age in which Disney has currently run out of ideas and must “recreate” the classic movies we know and love. In recent years, we have harkened back to such films as “Alice in Wonderland”, “Cinderella”, “Beauty and The Beast”, “The Jungle Book”, and “Sleeping Beauty” (“Maleficent”), now redone with real people. And in years to come, we have “Aladdin”, “The Lion King”, and “Dumbo” to look forward to in live-action. (“The Lion King” is still technically going to be an animated film, but now with more realistic computer-generated animation. Most of these new “live-action” films contain CGI, as we can’t have real talking teapots or candelabras.)
The most recently revisited Disney film came out just this December, “Mary Poppins Returns”. This is presented as a sequel to the original “Mary Poppins”, set around 25 years after the original film, during The Great Depression. Jane and Michael Banks have grown up, Michael becoming a father of three and Jane becoming a laborer’s rights activist. Times are difficult, and the Banks family is in danger of having their home repossessed after not paying off a loan when requested to. We are also introduced to Jack (played by Lin Manuel Miranda), the friendly lamp-lighter, always conveniently showing up wherever he is needed, with a cheeky cockney accent and a sturdy little bicycle. Mary Poppins, played by Emily Blunt, also shows up, unprovoked, as the Banks family is not currently in particular need of a nanny and honestly cannot afford one. No one in the house is bothered by the fact that she has not aged at all in 25 years. Michael agrees to have his children watched by Mary Poppins, thinking that all the adventures he and his sister had with Poppins as children were just dreams. The film is centered around the search for funds to pay off the house loan, with Jane and Michael searching for the certificate of shares that their father had in the bank, and the children searching for a different way to pay off the loan, and trying to expose Mr. Wilkins (Colin Firth), the president of the bank, for trying to “steal” their house, withholding the shares that the family needs to pay off the loan.
Mary Poppins takes the children on a few too many adventures (the film comes in at a whopping 2 hours and 10 minutes). They take an extravagant bath that somehow transports them to the ocean, they jump into the scene on their (deceased) mother’s “priceless” china bowl, they meet an eccentric Meryl Streep, and they turn back the clock on Big Ben, all while singing a new song with each adventure. And while these songs are nice, they come too frequently, and do not exactly “flow” together, if that’s the right word. There is no one song that remains in your memory, one song that you sing as you skip happily out of the movie theater. There is no “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. I found myself longing for them to sing a song from the original film.
Compared to the original “Mary Poppins”, the sequel is altogether just too much for one movie. I also found it quite predictable. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s likely that you’ll figure it out by yourself early in the film. The film seemed to rely heavily on replacements. Emily Blunt as a replacement for Julie Andrews, Lin Manuel Miranda as a replacement for Dick Van Dyke, and so on. Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda are great actors, but it is obvious that they will never replace the originals. Colin Firth replaces the old president of the bank, reviving the evil role, though, personally, it is very difficult for me to see Colin Firth as a villain. Meryl Streep’s scenes as Mary Poppins’s eccentric cousin Topsy replace the scene in the original film in which the Banks children laugh so hard that they float up to the ceiling. The charm and childlike wonder that is found in the original “Mary Poppins” is exaggerated in its sequel. It tries to recreate the original scenes in which the Banks children, Mary, and Bert the chimney sweep jump into a street painting, but this time with a china bowl. The 2D animation found in the sequel just does not seem to capture the wholesome nature of the original 2D animated scenes. In short, the new Mary Poppins tries too hard and does not succeed to replace the original film. I, personally, was excited when I heard about it the first time, but now, I do believe that “Mary Poppins” was a movie that should have been left alone. Disney, please stop messing with our childhoods.