Thursday, 13 December 2018

Mary Poppins Returns: Film Review

Mary Poppins Returns: Film Review

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Colin Firth
Director: Rob Marshall

How do you solve a problem like Mary Poppins 2?

Mary Poppins Returns: Film ReviewWith the longest gap between sequels ever recorded in cinema history, it seems like the return of the English nanny that so delighted so many decades ago was always bound to be divisive.

So it is with Mary Poppins Returns, a film that is both respectful of its nostalgia and yet also seems to be bound up by it, unsure of its own path to follow.

Set in the Great slump, London is facing a post-war depression with the inhabitants of Cherry Tree Lane in the firing line of the Depression. Newly widowed Michael (Whishaw, in mournful elegaic mode) and sister Jane (Mortimer, perky, but under-used) face losing the family home due to lack of mortgage payments.

With 5 days to find a shares certificate which will give them fiscal freedom, the Banks children and their own children are more in need now of a visit from Emily Blunt's Mary Poppins....

There's a sense of loss pervading lots of Poppins 2; and there's a lot of juggling needed for the tone of the Depression and balancing it with the edges of an old school Hollywood musical. It doesn't always quite work, in all honesty, and the film's blighted with the fact it's barely blessed with some truly memorable songs in the vein of Spoonful of Sugar, Chim Chim Cher-ee et al.

There's one central song that does soar - even if it has Lin-Manuel Miranda's Jack and his lamplighter brigade firing around on bikes like an outtake of a BMX festival - and that's Trip a Little Light Fantastic With Me. This one mixes both the terrible Cockney accent along with a memorable chorus, to produce an ode that gathers speed and is brilliantly translated to the screen.

Blunt's Poppins is a nicely starched character, with moments of eye-twinkling mixed with some sad mournful looks as she realises how far the children have fallen - and how much the London depression has hit.

In many ways, it's easy to see Mary Poppins Returns as a rejoinder to current political climates (the celebration of London, the demonising of the banks, the Depression) within the UK, but the timelessness of the first is what is, at times, missing from this, even if there is a sweet sense of escapism on offer this time around.
Mary Poppins Returns: Film Review

Yet, there is magic within Mary Poppins Returns, as it tries to rekindle an "excess of imagination" in both its subjects and the cinema audiences, who are becoming more enamoured with musicals (La La Land, The Greatest Showman).

"She never explains anything," says Miranda's Lamplighter Jack, a dismissive oneliner which says much about Poppins' appeal and the nonsensical edges of the flights of fantasy within. It's a meta line if ever there was one, and one which applies to Mary Poppins Returns - it may hit a younger audience, but an older audience, brought up in the memories of the first replayed through the years, may find it lacks a killer hook to keep you whistling along afterwards.

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