You know, you save Mr. Banks as his children’s nanny, and then the kids just grow up to need saving all over again. Especially Michael, those darn Banks men.
Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) is helping Michael (Ben Whishaw) with his three children John (Nathanael Saleh), Georgie (Joel Dawson) and Anabel (Pixie Davies) since Michael’s wife died. Michael has defaulted on a second mortgage when Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to save Mr. Banks again.
It turns out George Banks does own shares of the bank that could save the house, but don’t spend too much time looking for the shares because then you’ll be spending more time looking than the movie does.
I know it’s not fair to compare the new songs in Mary Poppins Returns to the classic songs from Mary Poppins that I’ve known as long as I’ve been alive. I’m just comparing them to recent musicals when I say I will never remember any of these songs.
They’re sung well and some have cool choreography, but there’s not a memorable tune in the lot. Avenue Q connected with my as soon as I saw it. Every week Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does and La La Land became a perennial.
Blunt is the same character Julie Andrews played. That transition is seamless. Her look of pride when she engages the children’s imaginations, and the way she downplays her own lessons are the essence of Mary Poppins.
Letting kids learn on their own is more effective than telling them. Even confirming what they’ve figured out would be too much of a crutch. She won’t fix things for them (until she does in the third act which is a questionable narrative choice.)
It is nice to see familiar characters grow up, and that Michael and Jane recognize Mary. They’re convinced they imagined her magic when they were kids.
That’s kind of a trite message, that adults lose all their imagination, but it is relevant to the traits they inherited from their father so it’s forgivable. The film answers for Bert’s whereabouts.
The special effects in Mary Poppins were groundbreaking, but now every movie has CGI and green screen. Mary Poppins Returns tries to give its fantasy sequences a retro feel, but it’s still actors on a green screen.
A nice touch is that we can see their reflections on the floor of the animated sequence, something they could never have done in the ‘60s. I like whenever they have a practical wheel or let inanimate objects talk with crude dubbing.
The sequel really dumbs down the social context of the originals. There’s no suffragette movement in the background of Mary Poppins Returns. It takes place during “The Great Slump” but there’s no attention given to what was causing the Depression.
Michael didn’t even lose the house for any shady political reasons. He needed money, he took out a loan, he lost his collateral. Mr. Wilkins (Colin Firth) is a stereotypical evil banker but it’s never explained how he might have tricked customers into losing their homes for his profits. That could have been very relevant to post-housing crisis America but Mary Poppins Returns isn’t interested in that.
There’s a pretty good Big Ben stunt in the climax, and the Light Fantastic Dance is this movie’s answer to the chimney sweeps. It’s good, but it’s not as good as “Step in Time.”
Mary Poppins Returns with too little too late. But really, one memorable song would’ve made Mary Poppins Returns a winner. Musicals are as good as the songs and there’s not one you’d leave the theater humming.
Mary Poppins Returns in theaters Wednesday, December 19.