Movie Review: ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

Flying into theaters just in time for the holidays, Mary Poppins Returns — taking place 25 years after the 1964 original – isn’t a reboot but a direct sequel. The Banks children have grown, and – like most adults have – are facing a rough patch in life. Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is a recently widowed father to three adorable children — Georgie (Joel Dawson), Anabel (Pixie Davies), and John (Nathanael Saleh) – who is doing everything he can to keep the bank from repossessing their family home. Enter Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt). She’s back to restore order and happiness to the grieving Banks family, with the help of lovable lamp-lighter named Jack (played by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda), and of course, a little bit of magic.

Helped, indeed, by the sheer imagination of the Julie Andrews-starrer that this pulls from. Hindered, no doubt, by the bar its predecessor set. Don’t be seduced by the hype and headlines that are not-so-cleverly touting this film as “Practically Perfect”: Mary Poppins Returns is a glossy good time at the movies, but a transcendent follow up, this is not.

Leaning more sour than sweet, Emily Blunt’s version of the famous nanny is prim, proper, vain, and sharp-tongued – yet you always feel the kindness of her heart. With such large shoes to fill, Blunt sashays upon the challenge with grace and a newly imagined (and slightly mysterious) Poppins all her own. She acts as a beacon of light, molding the film around her and bringing a freshness to a role that would be all too tempting to imitate. Lin-Manuel Miranda is affable and charming as ever and fans of the actor will be pleased to see him in one of the movie’s most rousing musical moments, “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” which is a gloriously large-scale dance number between Jack and his fellow lamp-lighters.

Jumping between weak attempts at injecting a story into a script that couldn’t care less about the narrative and its big-budget set pieces, the runtime starts to feel bloated and overlong midway through. But in true razzle dazzle fashion, every time your mind starts to drift, you’ll be dazzled with a new eye-popping set-piece that pulls you back in and wraps you up in a bundle of whimsical nostalgia. Not all the numbers totally hit the target, but when they do, it’s a sight to behold, such as when the gang travels inside a decorative pottery bowl and find themselves submerged into an animated world of music and mischief.

Where Mary Poppins Returns falters is the music. You’ll leave the theater smiling, but not humming. Charmed, but not changed. Don’t ask too much of it. Just let it wash over you, and you’ll be transported to a happier time. And as we come to an end of a much-maligned 2018, that honestly may be enough.

Mary Poppins Returns is now playing at Regal South Beach, AMC Aventura, AMC Sunset Place, Silverspot Cinema Miami, CMX Brickell City Centre, The Landmark at Merrick Park, and Cinepolis Coconut Grove. Click here for showtimes.

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