Does a magical nanny that flies down from the sky while holding an umbrella ring any bell to you? Me neither. But if you happen to be one of the more established movie-goers who had managed to see the first Mary Poppins in theaters in 1964, then, my salutation to you, sir, or madam. Please pardon me, for the fact that being new to this, the concept of Mary Poppins has yet to resonate within me. I will try to give my most honest of opinions about Mary Poppins Returns, as a freshman in this community, knowing that this review might be seen by some of the staunchest of Mary Poppins backers who were mesmerized by Julie Andrews in the 1964 film. Well, this is going to be terrifying.
In an era where films of superheroes, alien robots and dystopian futures rule the cinemas, Mary Poppins Returns is a unique find, with an aptly given title that is a staple of classics. Batman Returns. Superman Returns. You get the idea. My wish, at first, was to embrace the return of a long, (very long) awaited sequel to the original 1964 classic. Which, I didn’t have a chance to view in a theater. I was ecstatic, wanting to know what all the buzz is about. To me, this would likely fill up another section in a hidden corner of my film-munching appetite, after consuming the spies, monsters, superheroes, aliens, and all kinds of movies that 2018 has to offer.
Well, to put it briefly, that didn’t work out. Ever since the first line of the songs had been sung, I had been hunting, and hunting, for clues of what made Mary Poppins such an acclaimed film in the 60’s. If you’re a first timer just like me, several questions will definitely float in your head. Like, “What does Mary Poppins has in store for the children of Banks?”. Maybe, “Hmm, what level of conflict will arise to make it hard, even for the great Mary Poppins to overcome?”. Or, “Giggles, I can’t wait to see any hidden, fantastic, maaaagical world in the film. Bring it on, pretty please?”.
Sorry to burst your bubbles, but I’m afraid that the film won’t give you satisfying answers for your queries. At least not until Mary Poppins Returns. Again. With the exception of the scene where Mary Poppins flies down from the sky holding her magical umbrella, the rest of the film did look like they were scrambling to stay afloat.
I mentioned that particular scene because, by modern day standards, it may seem funny, but that’s the inseparable signature to the iconic character, and it opens the floodgates to my senses of nostalgia in such a short screen time. Seen the first movie, I may not, but the scene definitely struck my deep embedded memory from decades ago, quite sharply. It assured me that, yes, I’ve seen the character doing that ages ago, maybe on a minuscule sized TV, when I accidentally glimpsed through the VHS cassette playback by my grand aunt. It feels downright familiar.
Then, the next song ensued. And the next song followed suit. At one moment, I realized, that it has become too repetitive for my liking. Strangely, as opposed to The Greatest Showman (2017), another musical film which I have nothing other than praises for it, the songs in Mary Poppins Returns, felt.. hollow. They didn’t strongly represent any advancement in the plot or character development. The tunes are barely catchy. Worse, with its tightly interwoven nature with the plot, it started to feel like a boring and taxing routine.
Of course, with so many songs shoved into the plot, it is no wonder that the screen time bloated up to 2 hours and 10 minutes. While I certainly don’t discount the possibility of the crew’s intention to bring more production value to the audience with the massive song list, ironically, they were bound to land on really really bad times to commence a song. And that happened.
Just as the film was about to get slightly immersive and emotionally-captivating, someone decided to start singing and brought the whole scene down with it. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Imagine the sensation that you feel when you’re drifting off during your high school lecture sessions. Then you’re jolted right back because the lecturer raised his voice. Then, you started to doze off again. It’s pretty similar.
On both occasions, I was not fully immersed into the plot, nor was I fully uplifted and entertained by the songs. It stayed cyclical until it reached an anti-climatic resolve, and, without knowing it (but definitely anticipating for it), the movie was over. Yay! I was about as excited as a young school boy hearing the bell that marks the end of a school session. Guess that’s the closest to a childhood joy that Mary Poppins Returns has brought upon me?
I know, Mary Poppins is all about the magical scenes that really encapsulates the essence of reviving childhood in adulthood. But unfortunately, I opine that this one went a little too far. No doubt, those magical scenes tucked within Mary Poppins Returns are definitely imaginative, but it seems that they have crossed the borderline into the realm of silliness. A significant chunk of the film took place in a 2D world. Yes, I mean, hand-drawn cartoons. That somehow reminded me of Space Jam, and although the director cleverly used angles, distance, and layering of objects to really boost the perception that the characters are indeed in a 2D world, I found the whole homage a tad unnecessary, too lengthy, and pushed too hard, too far.
For once, I’m pretty clueless about the intended audience of a film. It certainly doesn’t please a normal adult like me. I doubt any young adult will stay in the theater after an hour. I am skeptical to think that the the film is meant for a matured audience who happened to have watched the first movie in 1964. To put in the numbers, director Rob Marshall was only 4 during that time. Does that indicate that, perhaps having seen the film in his early childhood and having it deep-rooted into his heart, he wished to bring a sequel that satisfies audience group like himself? And still, my little pessimist side can’t help but to suspect, that maybe, it is just an average modern film which borrows the nostalgic value and formula from a really old, established name, with the intention of repeating its financial success?
Still, I have to applaud the film’s effort of presenting old London with good attention to details, in such an impeccably refined manner. Though it is safe to say that this hurdle is definitely unavoidable given the era that Mary Poppins returned, but yet, the cities, the streets, the lamp posts, the characters outfit especially Emily Blunt’s, all lived up to the nostalgic attachment that the film comes with. I think, that besides Blunt’s hard solid performance as the titular character, the visually pleasant re-imagination of London is the strongest aspect of the film. If I have to raise up any.
Addict Verdict, AV:
Sorry, I just couldn’t find or be amused by the childish side of myself in Mary Poppins Returns, even if I had desperately hoped to. Despite that might mean that I had missed the true point of the film, yet, if digested as the most basic of a movie alone, it was still a huge letdown. Blunt’s peerless performance aside (Ah, those purr-fect eye rolls), Mary Poppins Returns is a good candidate to conduct an experiment on yourself, to find out if you’re the type who can doze off in a cinema. Equally thrilled as you were for this sequel that came in after a 54-years-hiatus, it’s sad that I have to even say, that Mary Poppins Returns with no magic this time.–The Film Addict
*This review was originally published on The Film Addict