To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original Mary Poppins from start to finish. We had it on a few years ago for the kids, but I thought it was really strange and didn’t pay it much attention. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the character.
However, when we first started seeing the trailers for Mary Poppins Returns, my kids got very excited. Frankly, I did, too. I thought Disney really rolled the dice on trying to revitalize an iconic, beloved character that is deeply ingrained in many people’s psyche. The willingness to risk financial failure on a venerated property shocked me. And Emily Blunt? Can you imagine the guts it takes to try to reprise such a famous role? A role previously played by a revered actress? Wow.
So even though I’m not necessarily a Mary Poppins fan, I have to confess that I had a great time watching Mary Poppins Returns. I found it charming from start to finish. It felt to me like a classic family movie–the kind of movie they don’t really make that often anymore. I liked the message, the humor, the acting, the music, and the general creative direction. In fact, we went with the grandparents and a great aunt, and they all loved it, too.
I’ve heard it argued that it just retreads the original movie. Some have said it hits the same beats at almost the exact same cadence. That may be true, but this movie isn’t made for the original fans of Mary Poppins. This is a completely new experience to my six-year-old and ten-year-old. Seeing it in a dark theater on the big screen with the loud speakers–this will be their Mary Poppins for life, and we need to realize that. The same argument can actually be made for Star Wars. Let the young have what we loved, too, but on their terms, in their own way. It’s okay to borrow from what made the original a hit, and it’s okay to take things in a different direction as well.
By the way, I’d like to rave about Emily Blunt. I adored her portrayal of Mary Poppins. To me, her singing exceeded my expectations. She sounded as good as anyone, in my opinion. Furthermore, she had a sly glimmer in her eye that, for the first time, made me really consider the fact that Mary Poppins may be some kind of a supernatural entity–like a well-meaning fairy, or a helpful nymph, or maybe even a sort of angel. She played the character incredibly stuffy, as the literary source material dictated, but she would at times offer a private grin, a lift of the eyebrows, or even a giant smile, that told me Emily Blunt is playing a character who is playing a character. I think Mary Poppins’ whole persona is an act, and I loved that interpretation. Though understated, Blunt’s execution of Poppins using exaggerated facial expressions and body language really struck me as funny. She always held her hands just so. The eyes would bulge indignantly just right. I found the extrovert posing as a strict, prim, and proper snob totally engaging.
I’ve also heard some fans of the original movie claim that Mary Poppins Returns doesn’t have very catchy music. Again, I’m no expert, but I thought it had excellent music. My kids had me download the soundtrack which has resulted in several songs being stuck in my head. Isn’t an earworm the sign of a good song? Or at least a catchy one?
Finally, the production value of Mary Poppins Returns is phenomenal. There are several instances when Mary Poppins and the children for whom she is responsible enter a world infused with cartoons. The special effects are seamless. I found it amazing to see the actors interacting with what appeared to be classic 2D images. Of course, I could be mistaken. Everything could have been CGI for all I know. The point is that it looked beautiful.
Did the story make perfect sense? No, not really, but who cares? I’m not going to Mary Poppins Returns for a think-piece. I’m going for the singing, the dancing, the humor, and the fact that it is a wholesome movie with a positive message for not just the children, but for everyone watching.
If you’re looking for a family movie, I completely recommend Mary Poppins Returns.
(Did you enjoy this review? Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)