Mary Poppins Returns (2018) (Blu-ray film review).

If anything, it’s unusual that it took so long for the Disney Studios to do another Mary Poppins film, especially as P.L. Travers wrote so many books about her most famous character. It also has to be very ambitious as the original 1966 film was perfect in every way. Well, apart from using an American and not British robin which is a different species.

Michael Banks (actor Ben Whishaw) owes money to the bank and they want the loan back in full within a week. Thing is, they can’t find the shares certificate in the bank that would pay for it. His wife looked after the paperwork until she died and he has 3 children, Annabel, John and Georgie (actors Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson) to look after. His sister Jane (actress Emily Mortimer) helps look for the certificate but to no avail.

Who would have thought Mary Poppins (actress Emily Blunt) coming down from the sky holding a kite would bring a nostalgic tear to the eye. The lamplighter Jack (actor Lin-Manual Miranda) quickly pals up with Mary Poppins and joins in the adventures with the three children and sorts things out.

The adult children don’t really remember if she did the magic when they were young. That’s adults for you. Interestingly, there is no last minute rescue and they do actually lose the house. Well, nearly. Anything else has to be declared as spoilers.

It doesn’t explain why William Wilkins (actor Colin Firth) wanted the Banks’ house or why he appears to be collecting so much real estate. You also have to wonder who keeps the stuff in the house from falling over every time Admiral Boom (actor David Warner) shoots the cannon. How big is Jane’s flat that she can take in the whole family? It does seem odd that Mary Poppins isn’t at the ending with the balloons considering that she is supposed to be the source of the magic in the film but got sidelined towards the end. Is the balloon lady (actress Angela Lansbury) another of Mary Poppins’ relatives?

With what I know about film-making, I do have to wonder about the lighting of this film, more so with the night scenes where things are indistinct. It isn’t as though there aren’t directors and cameramen who are expert in this area out there but so few of them seem to be called in these days. I thought the palate of the film was rather too dark and wonder if kids would prefer to see more of what was going on. At least, the moon could have been out to give some night light. Cherry Tree Lane is an indoor set so it could have been tweaked a little.

It’s a difficult task for any new team to equal let alone better the original 1964 ‘Mary Poppins’ film, even more so when it gets repeated on television so often I suspect people know it by heart. I think had I done it, I would have gone for a new family with less baggage than carry on with an adult version of the Banks family.

Emily Blunt’s version of Mary Poppins is a little more arrogant but probably a lot closer to the book version which was little more stricter which she explains she paid more attention to. Blunt’s voice is a bit harder when you compare to Julie Andrews. Julie Walters is always a scene-stealer. Lin-Manual Miranda has a face that lights up the screen and quite a revelation.

The adventures with the children in the bath and on the china bowl do feel more like fillers to sustain the lost shares plot than as a natural progression. Then again, I do have a firm grasp of writing so probably seeing things other people wouldn’t.

As a musical, I have to confess they don’t have the same sparkle because they are are more down than up in tone. The vaudeville number, ‘Light Fantastic’ and ‘No Where To Go But Up’ are probably the best songs although ‘Can You Imagine That?’ is growing on me.

It’s inevitable that there is some resemblance to the original film by going animation and meeting Jake’s friends and you have to wonder in an earlier life if they were sweeps.

I’m glad they put in a reminder about Mary’s feet facing opposite directions. Oddly, she seems to take a backseat to the main action than directly manipulating things. Mind you, if she did that, the plot would have finished the first day. In a comparison to the first film, it was a redemption film which is always a strong element. With this film, looking for shares simply can’t compete.

With 85 minutes of extras, give yourself plenty of time to watch it all in one sitting. ‘Back To Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns’ is a good start and, sans make-up, it’s hard to believe he was 91 when they filmed. The ‘Partially Perfect Bloopers’ runs only for a couple minutes. However, ‘The Musical Numbers Of Mary Poppins’ returns is the true highlight because you see behind the scenes of four of the songs in preparation and rehearsal with little bits of the final film and a lot of explanation from cast and crew. Totally spell-binding and you’ll probably want to watch the film again after seeing them.

Only one song wasn’t used, ‘The Anthropomorphic Zoo’ is shown against storyboards. I quite liked it but I suspect the animation would have taken longer than the 18 months that ‘The Royal Doulton Music Hall’ took to create. There are only 2 deleted scenes which shows how much preparation was carried out and probably taken out to cut the time down a little.

Of course the 23 minute ‘The Practically Perfect Making Of Mary Poppins Returns’ is a suitable finale. Seeing the building of Cherry Tree Lane is engrossing for the time it took to do. Mary Poppins arrival is also from 45 feet up. There is also a metaphor for life from the balloons.

I think I’m going to need to watch ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ several more times to get deeper into it. I suspect also that it will be a constant on Yuletide ever more.

Don’t trust bankers.

GF Willmetts

May 2019

(region free blu-ray. pub: Disney. 1 blu-ray disk 210 minute film with extras. Price: varies, I pulled mine for £15.00 (UK). ASIN: B07KMSNM1P)

cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manual Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, David Warner, Dick Van Dyke, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Pixie Davies, Nathanaek Saleh and Joel Dawson

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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