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Laramie Movie Scope:
Mary Poppins Returns

Slick sequel that is not worthy

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 1, 2019 – This sequel to “Mary Poppins” (1964) really suffers, especially musically, in comparison to the original. For those who have not seen the original, it is probably just fine, a lot like most musical movies made these days: The story is derivative, the music is forgettable and the characters are bland, and that's what passes for a good musical these days.

Of the 2018 musicals I've seen, “A Star is Born,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” only Bohemian Rhapsody has more than one good song on its soundtrack, and those songs were written years ago. The story is pretty much the same as the 1964 film, with a few alterations and some new characters. Except for the animation, the film looks pretty good. A lot of money went into this film to make it look good.

Emily Blunt (“A Quiet Place”) does a nice job as the new Mary Poppins (she has a nice singing voice) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (of the mega-hit on Broadway, “Hamilton”) plays Jack the lamp-lighter, the equivalent of Dick Van Dyke's chimney sweep character in the 1964 film. Dick Van Dyke is back again for this film, too. Angela Lansbury (“Nanny McPhee”) also appears in this film as the balloon lady, similar to the woman who feeds pigeons in the 1964 film. I will always remember Lansbury for her memorable performance of the title song in “Beauty and the Beast” (1991) as Mrs. Potts. There is no shortage of talent in this film.

The story follows the original film almost point by point, with the father, Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw of “Spectre”) the son of George Banks worried about losing the family home to foreclosure. Mary Poppins shows up to help keep the family together during this crisis. The villain of this story is a crooked bank manager, Wilkins (Collin Firth of “Kingsman: The Secret Service”) pulling the strings to make it tougher on Banks to keep his house.

Banks is so stressed out by this crisis that he is behaving badly towards his own family. The kids, aided by Mary Poppins and Jack try to find money to pay the mortgage payment in time to save the house. This leads us to Cousin Topsy's place (Meryl Streep) where everything is topsy turvy (a similar scene in the 1964 film featured a laughing, floating Ed Wynn). There is also a scene similar to the original film in which Mary Poppins, Jack and the children enter an animated world. The animation in this scene seemed lackluster, compared to the similar scene in the 1964 film.

So, a lot of money and a lot of talent went into this film. I certainly don't fault the actors for how bland this all turned out. There is no pizzaz in this film. It is just flat. The music and dancing just doesn't come close to the 1964 film, which is somewhat understandable, since it was one of the all-time great musicals (it should have won the Academy Award for best picture). It seems to me if you are going to make a sequel to “Mary Poppins” you had better bring your “A” game. This falls short.

As far as family entertainment goes, there is very little of that in movies these days. This movie fits the bill. As far as it goes for a family film, especially for kids who haven't seen the 1964 film, it rates a C+. If you've seen the 1964 film and you love it, however, prepare yourself for disappointment if you buy a ticket for this sequel.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2019 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]