Combustible Celluloid
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With: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Jim Norton, Noma Dumezweni
Written by: David Magee, Rob Marshall, John DeLuca, based on stories by P.L. Travers
Directed by: Rob Marshall
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild thematic elements and brief action
Running Time: 130
Date: 12/19/2018

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Stuff and Nonsense

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Emily Blunt makes a terrific Mary Poppins, bringing that same combination of odd and thorny with an underlying sexiness that Julie Andrews did to the 1964 Mary Poppins, even if Andrews is still the best. Rob Marshall directs Mary Poppins Returns as if it were a direct sequel, following immediately in the 1960s, or of no particular time. Except for a villain, a banker that gets rich by foreclosing on homes (shades of The Big Short), this movie has no winking nods to anything modern-day. It's all comfortably old-fashioned and self-contained. In the story, several years have indeed passed, and now Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is grown up with a family of his own. His wife has passed on, and his dream of being an artist has given way to working at the bank to make ends meet. His sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) lives with him and helps out, while organizing rallies and demonstrations (we never see these, only Jane making and carrying signs and flyers around). Dick Van Dyke's chimney-sweep Bert has been replaced by a cheerful lamplighter, Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), who also sports a wild cockney accent. When the family is about to lose the house, Mary shows up to take the children on adventures and sort of indirectly help save the day. One such adventure takes place inside a fancy bowl (including a series of delightful hand-drawn cartoons and fantastic use of the bowl's contours) and another in an upside-down repair shop run by Cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep); neither of them really further the story, but they are welcome asides. The songs aren't quite as memorable as the ones in the original, but perhaps given time they'll stick around. Overall, while it's not a great movie, it's colorful and diverting, and it truly is good to see Mary again.

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