Friday, January 4, 2019

Mary Poppins Returns (a movie review post)

Where even to begin with this one? I mean, Mary Poppins Returns should have been... Man, I hate going to sports analogies, but it should have been a grand slam. At least a home run. It's the kind of movie that parents should have been swarming to with their kids, not so much because their kids wanted to see it but because they wanted to see it. Mary Poppins is one of the most beloved of Disney characters and has been for decades. But, yet, it's been drowned out by Aquaman. Aquaman!

Which is not unjustified, as it turns out. Not that I've seen Aquaman (and probably won't bother to, either, or at least not in the theater), but Poppins never managed to rise above mediocre. And mediocre is very difficult at more than two hours.

So let's deal with the most glaring problem first: the music. In a word, boring. In two? Unmemorable. And to add insult to that: They had Lin-Manuel Miranda right there! He's in the freaking movie, man; use him for what he's really great at: writing music, not singing it. Which is not to say that he's not a fine singer, he is, but it's not his gift. When you have one of the greatest living song writers on hand, why would you settle for lackluster crap? It's a musical, for crying out loud, the music is the most important element. Come on, Disney, you're better than this!
Now I have to go listen to the Moana soundtrack so that I can experience a bit of what Poppins should have been like.

Moving on to the story, we fare no better. Stories in musicals tend to be a bit simpler than your general movie plots because you have to spend time on musical numbers rather than telling story, and that's okay... when the music is good, because the music should be carrying the story. But, when the music isn't great, you better have a solid story to fall back on. In Poppins, not so much. The plot is simple and predictable, predictable almost to the point of unbelievability.

Unbelievable in what ways? Well, the villain is the villain because he's the villain. He just likes to win. Or he doesn't like to lose. On of the two. He seems to have no motivation other than that. Every time they hint at anything beyond that, they back off of it and leave it at, "I must take all the houses from all the people!" And Colin Firth just isn't adept enough as an actor to pull any of this off.

Michael Banks is also completely unbelievable as the asshole father, something which is constantly undermined by the script. He gets mad at his kids and yells or whatever but breaks down in tears over it moments later. He's lost his wife and is losing his house as a result of his grief, so we can't even see him as incompetent, just vaguely hapless. It really destroys the dynamic of the first Poppins where Michael's father is an asshole. It's like the writers wanted to retain that dynamic in the household but couldn't bring themselves to have Michael have grown up to become an asshole. Which, granted, would have been hard to swallow, but it would also have been a great reason for Poppins to return, "Michael! I'm ashamed of what you've become!" But, no, instead they just kind of wallow around in being wishy-washy.

It makes the movie a mess.

Then there's Emily Mortimer, and I like Emily Mortimer, but her role is a mess, too. I'm blaming it more on the directing than on her, but she's constantly spunky and upbeat through the whole movie which makes the threat of losing the house seem like a non-threat. And you know that that's true, anyway, because you know that there's no way they're going to lose the house, but the viewer needs to believe that the characters believe that the threat is real and Mortimer's character more than any other undermines that tension.

So not only is the music boring, but the movie is too.

However, the animation sequences were beautiful.

And, actually, Emily Blunt was fantastic as Mary Poppins. So good in fact that I wish there was going to be another Mary Poppins movie just to see her return to the role; however, I doubt the box office will be good enough on this for Disney to want to risk another one anytime soon. Which is a shame because, like I said, this should have been an easy win for Disney rather than the snoozefest it turned into.


  1. Eh, I never really cared for musicals.

  2. I'm not hearing good things about this one, and it should have been fantastic. Sigh.

  3. From the time I heard about the new Poppins movie, I was skeptical about it. Although you say Emily Blunt was good, no one can replace Julie Andrews.


    1. Janie: I didn't see she replaced her, but she is good. She's got a... slyness about her that I didn't expect. Blunt has never really impressed me as an actress, so I was quite surprised by this performance.