REVIEW: ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ without the magic

What a disappointment.

After several decades, the character Mary Poppins has finally returned to the big screen. The new film with the iconic character takes place several years after the original, but follows some of the main characters. The Banks siblings, Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw), are now grown and Michael has children of their own.

However, times are tough again for the family, as Michael’s wife has passed away and bills are piling up. In fact, Michael’s financial troubles lead to the possibility of him losing the house. Because of all the difficulties, Poppins (Emily Blunt) arrives again to help get things back on track.

“Mary Poppins Returns” has a major issue. From start to finish, the movie is either doing the same things as the original, or is adding story elements that are entirely unnecessary in this type of film.

The biggest and most glaring example when it comes to the latter is the movie’s inclusion of a villain. I haven’t read the books, but film-wise, the main conflict of “Poppins” has revolved around the parents trying to raise their children. Apparently the drama of familial relationships wasn’t enough this time around, though, as “Returns” inserts an evil banker who wants to take away Michael Banks’ house because, um, reasons, I guess.

mary-poppins-returns-cast-slice-600x200
Courtesy Walt Disney.

At the same time, “Returns” has many scenes immensely similar to its predecessor. For example, there’s a scene where this movie’s version of Bert, a lamplighter named Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) has a whole song and dance number with several other lamplighters reminiscent of “Step in Time.” Other sequences with similarities to the original include the Banks’ children causing trouble at the bank and the main characters going into an animated world with colorful costumes.

To pump the brakes on the criticism a bit, it should be noted that while “Returns” either replicates things from the original or adds ill-fitting story pieces, none of it is executed all that poorly. It’s not overly long, either, clocking in at just above two hours. Plus, it does feature some heartwarming moments.

However, the magic just isn’t there this time around, and it pales so much in comparison to the 1964 classic. It has some delight, but it’s also rather ‘meh.’

Still, some praise is still earned. Emily Blunt really put the work in here to recreate Mary Poppins. It’s a role that Julie Andrews knocked out of the park and her performance is so iconic that it can’t be topped, but Blunt is still great here. Mortimer is also really solid here as Jane Banks, who’s become an optimistic labor advocate.

On the other hand, while Miranda is fine as Not Bert, the necessity of his character is never really there. In the first film, Bert was featured to be the non-magical adult character who was still positive, optimistic and could see where Mary Poppins was coming from. However, Jane already kind of fills that role in this movie.

To give “Returns” some credit again, the special effects, costume and set work all looks great here. Also, while not as memorable as its predecessor, the music and especially dancing is decent.

The filmmakers had their hearts in the right place, with this one. However, despite some fine acting and musical moments, “Mary Poppins Returns” never rises above average. 2.65 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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