If you read Matthew’s review about Mortal Engines, then you’ve got an idea how expectations can affect your enjoyment of a movie. So needless to say, expectations for Mary Poppins Returns have to be sky high.
With that in mind, the movie delivers! It’s silly, beautiful, clever, and incredibly charming. Emily Blunt can do no wrong, Lin-Manual Miranda looks so happy to be there, and the music is so catchy. Truly, everyone involved in front of and behind the camera does an amazing job, just as they should in a Disney movie. At this point, the Disney empire is big enough and rich enough to be able to assemble nothing but the best. When people complain about the impending remakes of Disney animated classics, I don’t fully side with them. I don’t think any movie is untouchable. Why shouldn’t kids now and in the future get their own beloved, big-screen adventures? Basically, a remake shouldn’t ruin your affection for an original. So what’s the harm?
Now, having said all that, I’m about to harp on Mary Poppins Returns for its remakiness. There are spoilers ahead, so proceed at your own risk.
Now, I know Mary Poppins Returns is technically a sequel, but it feels like a remake. About 15 minutes into the movie, I found myself distracted from fully enjoying it. I noticed some very strong parallels between the first and the second. By the end of the movie, I was running through each beat, character, and song matching it to its counterpart in the original. Because I’m a big nerd, I’ve made a table for you to peruse at your leisure.
|The adult female has lost sight of what truly matters for a political pursuit||Sister Suffragette||No song, same character though|
|The Father’s main dilemma||The Life I Lead||A Conversation|
|What the children need||The Perfect Nanny||No song, as they wouldn’t sing|
|Chores are fun song||A Spoonful of Sugar||Can You Imagine That?|
|Let me tell you about my job song||Pavement Artist||(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky|
|Not exactly the same, but they occur at the same beat. Both contain a “Ain’t Mary Poppins grand?” theme||Jolly Holiday||The Royal Doulton Music Hall/Introducing Mary Poppins|
|Mary impresses everyone while Bert/Jack talk fast||Supercali…||A Cover is Not the Book|
|Lullaby||Stay Awake||The Place Where the Lost Things Go|
|An odd relative has gravitational issues song||I Love to Laugh||Turning Turtle|
|Bert/Jack dances with friends||Step in Time||Trip a Little Light Fantastic|
|Super catchy, everything’s resolved, flying song||Let’s Go Fly a Kite||Nowhere to Go But Up|
There are a few differences between them. For example, Mary Poppins doesn’t have an actual villain. The bankers are antagonistic, but not nefarious. The father is obstructive, but that’s part of the point of the movie. In Returns, they included a more straightforward antagonist. Colin Firth does a fine job as a duplicitous banker. The similarity I found most irksome involved Winnifred and Adult Jane’s characters. Both are politically motivated females who the movie seems to believe has missed what’s really important in life (e.g. Winnifred’s motherly responsibilities and Jane’s love life). I guess it works to give Miranda’s character more of a purpose in the story, but it made me roll my eyes a little.
So this is my internal tug-of-war with this movie. As I previously said, it’s a charming movie that hits all the right notes. Does it matter if the notes are the same? Maybe…I don’t know. I stand by what I said. People should be able to enjoy a retold story without it diminishing the original. But does the familiarity diminish enjoyment of the remake? Not according to everyone else I’ve talked to. I seem to be in the minority for criticism, which makes me think I’m taking it all a little too seriously. If you need to check your brain at the door for some movies, you should also be able to check your cynicism. Go enjoy some genuine fun!