So, if you saw Saving Mr. Banks, even as sugar-coated as it was, you know P.L. Travers didn’t like what Disney did with Mary Poppins. After further reading, we read she put in her will that Disney wasn’t allowed to touch any other Mary Poppins adventures she made (there were 11), so I was shocked a couple years ago when I read they were making Mary Poppins Returns (an apparent thumb to the nose to Travers’ will and her book, Mary Poppins Comes Back). With no one alive to contest besides diehard purist fans of the ’64 original, the film came out Friday. We checked it out last night.
Whereas the original had Mary Poppins come in to teach Mr. Banks the value of his family over work and to lighten up on life by way of her looking after his kids, Mary Poppins Returns has to help the fam get through a tragedy and learn to live again.
Emily Blunt takes up the Mary Poppins mantle from Julie Andrews, and IMO, she did a fine job nailing the singing duties as well as pulling of the GENUINE snarkiness Mary Poppins can exude while delivering her life lessons. Joey thought they could’ve worked harder to make the two versions mesh aesthetically. Andrews was 29 when she portrayed Mary Poppins, Emily Blunt’s 35. I personally think Travers’d prefer Blunt’s take on the character since she has a harder, more stern disposition that Andrews’ portrayal. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still motherly, but harder.
Another important aspect of the original that made it so memorable were the snappy and thoughtful numbers. Mary Poppins Returns has its own set of numbers that help drive the narrative. Though fun and thoughtful, I don’t think they’re as memorable; however, the originals aren’t forgotten as they’re peppered throughout the film as instrumentals giving certain moments the gravitas or the lightness the moment calls for.
Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer do admirable jobs as adult Michael and Jane Banks while Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson are sweet as Michael’s kids, Anabel, John, and Georgie. Angela Lansbury replaces the bird lady as the balloon lady, and Dick Van Dyke kills it as Mr. Dawes Jr. dancing like he was 38 when he played Bert/Mr. Dawes Sr. instead of 92, evening climbing on a table for his dance number! Amazing! The penguins even return. Karen Dotrice, who played the original Jane Banks, had a cameo as the elegant woman.
I, like millions of fans that’ve been following the making of Mary Poppins Returns, was scared shitless of how bad the powers that be were going to botch the film and shit on our childhoods, but I can attest to lay the worries to rest. Mary Poppins Returns’s light-hearted, sometimes heart wrenching family fun to get you in the feels for the holidays.
Be good to each other.