Mary Poppins Returns
dir Rob Marshall
scr David Magee
prd John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, Marc Platt
with Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, Joel Dawson, Meryl Streep, David Warner, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury
release UK/US 21.Dec.18
18/UK Disney 2h10
Mary Poppins Returns
Let's go ride a bike: Mortimer, Walters, Miranda and Blunt with Saleh, Davies and Dawson

whishaw firth streep
See also:
Saving Mr Banks (2013)
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Mary Poppins Returns Rebooting a character this iconic requires a deft touch, something that has never described director Rob Marshall. But even as his heavy hand leaves sections of the film flat, the cast injects magic into the characters. Emily Blunt is perfectly cast in the title role, and she's surrounded by a collection of enjoyably lively people. So it's frustrating that the film is still overshadowed by its 54-year-old predecessor.

There's a "great slump" in Britain, and the now-grown Michael Banks (Whishaw) is struggling to manage his money and raise three rambunctious kids (Saleh, Davies and Dawson) after his wife's death, even with the help of his never-married sister Jane (Mortimer). Local lamplighter Jack (Miranda) and their dithery housekeeper Ellen (Walters) keep an eye on them, but banker Wilkins (Firth) is repossessing the family house. Then Mary Poppins (Blunt) appears to help whip everyone into shape with the help of a few quirky friends and relatives. And quite a bit of magic.

There's nothing specifically wrong with the film. It's packed with witty dialog, strong performances and a timely thematic kick. But the songs are chirpy rather than catchy, and the film lacks a sense of curiosity, which makes it feel eerily predictable, no matter how smiley everyone is. This is most notable in the tiresome action beats, which are contrived to make the film fit into some studio executive's idea of a blockbuster formula yet add nothing to the characters or themes.

Blunt brings superb twinkle to the screen, sharply catching Mary's knowing mischief. Her interaction with the other characters is warm and engaging, especially the terrific Whishaw and Mortimer. And the three children are strong in significant roles. Streep manages to make her sequence silly and fun, but other talented side-players are never allowed to rise above cliches. Miranda is relentlessly starry-eyed, Firth is given a thankless one-note villain, Walters is limited to playing ditzy.

For audiences looking for light entertainment, this movie definitely does the trick. But those hoping to recapture some of the original's timeless magic will be disappointed. There's a great film in here, but like every other musical Marshall has directed, the strength of the material needs to stand up for itself against his leaden direction. And because this is an original movie musical, it simply isn't yet robust enough. It'll still be a hit, but it would have been nice to see Blunt in more inventive adaptations of PL Travers' books.

cert u themes, action 24.Nov.18

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