I managed to catch a matinée of Mary Poppins Returns this afternoon. Going into it, the overwhelming impression I'd had was that the film was well made, the storyline heartfelt and and the general experience a joyous one. Coming out of it, I'd have to say I (mostly) agree with all three. I'm certainly a big fan of the original, and and even bigger fan of Julie Andrews. Emily Blunt of course had some very big shoes to fill in the titular role, but pulled it off convincingly.
The film takes place many years after the original during the Great Depression, where the Banks children are all grown up and Michael (Ben Whishaw (who's best in show IMO)) is on the verge of losing his childhood home to repossession. His wife has died, leaving him alone with his three children Anabel, John and Georgie. Aunt Jane is in the picture as well, and she and Michael realize their father had left them shares to the bank, which they expect could cover the debt owed for the house. If only they can find the papers.
Cue Mary Poppins, who descends from the clouds on an old kite Georgie has loses control of, and over the course of two hours, she and the wee Banks children, along with lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) go on a series of fantastical mini adventures around London.
The crux of the drama is that the Banks might lose their home. The kids hatch an idea to sell their mother's old bowl, which she had always described as "priceless." Here's where we are treated to Meryl's scene, as she portrays Mary's "second" cousin Topsy (her full name is Tatiana T-something with a vaguely Russian-y accent), who owns a fix-it shop. She's sought out to help repair the crack of said bowl, with the slight wrinkle being that her shop turns upside down every second Wednesday, of course the day they all happen to show up to ask for help. Meryl gets to sing a song entitled "Turning Turtle" and actually has a pretty physical role, rolling around, dancing, swinging, standing on her head. Sadly, mom's bowl is deemed inexpensive, regardless of Topsy's ability to repair it.
Fast forward toward the end, where it seems all hope is lost for the Banks' as we see them moving out of their home. That is until Michael realizes the bank notes were used by Georgie to repair the holes in the beat up kite. With the help of Mary, Jack and Jack's lamplighting friends, they manage to stall things enough for Michael and Jane to make it to the bank, where a devious Mr. Wilkins (Colin Firth) tries to tell them it's too late. In walks Dick Van Dyke (in character of course), Wilkins' uncle and chairman of the bank, who ousts Wilkins and announces that Michael's childhood tuppence investment has secured the loan payoff. Hurray!
As expected, the effects and stage production were extremely strong. I have to admit though that for about the first hour of the film, it seemed like the actual plot of the film got a bit lost, in that the Banks' losing their home was just a backstory, and the real focus of the movie was just showcasing magical experiences for the kids on screen. Maybe there's nothing wrong with that, and I felt this less in the second half, but I was generally underwhelmed at the beginning.
And I might get some hate for this, but I just wish movie musicals had more amazing singers nowadays. God bless Emily Blunt but there were zero wows for me. I realize she's not that kind of vocalist, and it isn't even a comparison to Julie Andrews, but I like a little more 'pop' in performances like these. Same sort of goes for Miranda. Their acting was wonderful, however.
The film is doing fairly decent with critics and should make a lot of money. Pictures like this tend to have pretty good legs, especially over the extended holiday season. I have a feeling I'll never see it a second time, though.
One thumb up, one thumb sideways.