On Dec. 19, Disney released “Mary Poppins Returns,” produced by Rob Marshall (best known for “Chicago”) with screenwriting by David Magee (best known for “Finding Neverland”). This sequel to the 1964 movie “Mary Poppins” is set 25 years after the original, showing Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his struggling family of three children after his wife’s death, as his unpaid loan makes the bank repossess their loved family home. Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) comes just in time to help restore the children’s hope and readjust Michael’s sight of family in a time of despair.
I, however, was absolutely unaware of this plot. When I came home for winter break, my father, who had at one point watched a documentary about Lin-Manuel Miranda and “Hamilton,” told me Miranda was casted as Jack in “Mary Poppins Returns” and brought my whole family to go see it a couple days after its release. As I settled into the red recliner of the movie theater, I could not help but feel excited to see and hear a remake of “A Spoonful of Sugar.” I was shocked when I realized my supercalifragilistic expectations were completely wrong, but pleasantly surprised to feel the same magic and wonder I felt many, many years ago when I first watched “Mary Poppins” on cassette.
Perhaps it is the nostalgia and long wait that brought success to this production. After the idea was proposed and rejected three times prior, “Mary Poppins Returns” has already won eight awards and has been nominated for many more, including four Golden Globes. All of the actors and actresses did an amazing job with their roles; the new children were adorable and charming, the characters from “Mary Poppins” that remained carried through with seamless, timeless acting. The mix of gloomy, London live-action scenes and colorful, hand drawn animated scenes support the various musical aspects of the movie in a way similar to the original that it made my heart ache with nostalgia.
As mentioned before, I was expecting to hear remakes of classic “Mary Poppins” songs, but composer Marc Shaiman and songwriter Scott Wittman, the duo known for “Hairspray,” did such an amazing job with the soundtrack that I forgot about that within the first 10 minutes. As someone that is especially susceptible to different emotions in the presence of music, a movie’s, and especially a musical one’s, soundtrack is critical to my impression of the movie overall. The music in “Mary Poppins Returns” is a huge part of supplementing the plot, so I had quite a few favorites from the soundtrack.
Michael sang “A Conversation” as he reflected on how his family was magical when his wife was around while searching through the attic to find a way to solve his problem with the loan. The emotion in the song with Whishaw’s powerful acting in this scene made me cry. I also cried when Mary Poppins sang “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” an emotional lullaby about how the feeling of loss will reside, but the person or thing is never lost if they can be found in your heart. This song in particular added the life lesson factor everyone expects from a Disney movie.
Meryl Streep made an appearance as Mary Poppins’ cousin and sang a song called “Turning Turtle,” which was filmed to seem like everything was upside down. The cinematography here was done well, but the “Mamma Mia!” lover inside of me was mostly excited for Meryl Streep.
A few other noteworthy songs are “The Royal Doulton Music Hall,” Nowhere to Go But Up” and “Can You
Imagine That?” all for their resemblance to tracks from the original picture: “Super-cali-fragil-istic-expi-ali-docious,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “A Spoonful of Sugar,” respectively. There was a good balance in maintaining the same feel of the original with a refreshed, new take.
Of course, good music is great when paired with eye catching choreography. Some of the best choreography in the movie is seen in the songs “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.” The song is this movie’s equivalent of “Step In Time,” but instead of chimney sweepers, Jack and the other lamplighters guide Mary Poppins and the Banks children through London as they dance and light the lampposts. Like the chimney sweepers in “Mary Poppins,” they used their tools as dance props. The choreography utilized their bicycles and lampposts for breathtaking stunts and dances. In fact, real BMX bikers were used for the bike stunts in this scene.
Taking in all of the aspects of the movie, from the actors, the music, the choreography, the cinematography, and most of all, the nostalgia, “Mary Poppins Returns” was great. However, when the notes of nostalgia are taken out and the movie is looked at with “Mary Poppins” virgin eyes, the movie has much less charm. The actors and music and everything in between were still fine, but the execution of the movie was a bit…aggressively happy. For a family like mine, where the oldest child is 14, the movie felt a little more painfully childish, especially when compared to the original. “Mary Poppins” had plenty of raw emotion to it, enough that made it more appealing to all ages, giving it that timelessness we know and love of many Disney movies. “Mary Poppins Returns” felt a little more marketed, a little more unrealistic, making it lose some of its charm. “Mary Poppins Returns” drips with nostalgia and is heartwarming for anyone who has seen “Mary Poppins;” like most sequels, however, it is not as magical as the original.
Armana Islam is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.