…But mostly just Lin Manuel Miranda appreciation.
Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns is a sequel to the 1964 classic, but is it a unnecessary sequel or an instant classic itself?
Emily Blunt looks pretty damn fantastic and really similar when side by side with the original Mary, Julie Andrews. She looks the part and sounds the part, but she has very much gone in her own direction with the character.
The story is less nuanced this time around, which feels weird to say about a film where a Nanny gets danced at by an awful cockney accent and several cartoon penguins, but stay with me. Last time around many people didn’t realise Mary was sent to save the father first and the children second, until it was literally spelt out to them in Disney’s Saving Mr Banks, bio pic about the making of the movie.
This time around there’s not much subtlety- Michael is grown up, has kids of his own, lost his wife, and is about to loose his house. Unless the family finds a share certificate that Michael’s father got from the bank. The new bank manager is having none of it and wants the extra profits and does everything to stop them. Gone is the family drama aspect and in comes this simple Macguffin chase.
Thats not to say there isn’t a little sadness in the story. The missing mother to the children gets a slow ballad, and a brief encore later. Thats it. The rest of the flick is just pure happiness that will leave you smiling ear to ear in the cinema.
The story strays dangerously close to doing what Disney did with the Force Awakens and its similarity to A New Hope. Rather than been a cookie cutter mould style replacement of the original, it hits a lot of similar story and song beats but very much makes them their own. The trip into the chalk drawing is now a trip into a porcelain vase, gone is the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and in is a trip to Mary Poppins cousin, Tatiana Antanasia Cositori Topotrepolovsky, gone are the chimney sweeps and in are the Leary, lamp lighters. The film takes the classics mould and breaks it. The musical numbers are bigger and better than the last, and so many are incredibly iconic already. These will be appearing on Disney mash up albums for years to come.
The music was overseen by the surviving Sherman brother, and composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The musical numbers in the film are what makes this an instant classic in my eyes. Can you imagine that?, The Royal Doulton Music Hall, A Cover is Not the Book and Nowhere to go but up are just so catchy and brilliant, I really need to go see this film again so I can sing along now that I know the words.
The real star of the movie to me is Lin Manuel Miranda’s character Jack, who gets, arguably, the best song in the film and certainly the biggest dance number, Trip a Little Light Fantastic! He even does a really great, bad-cockney accent like Dick Van Dyke did before him. Lin first came to my attention on comedy advice podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me. Then, shortly after, his rap-musical Hamilton took off big time. It’s huge, on Broadway and the West End. He often quotes that what got him into musicals was the animated Disney classic The Little Mermaid. Which is great because he’s in charge of music in the live action re-boot of it! I would put good money on seeing a lot more from him in the future.
In summary I would say that Mary Poppins Returns is an excellent, feel good film. It does sort of dumb down compared to the original, but who cares when the music is this good right? If you go in wanting to hate a sequel or a reboot or whatever you will always be able to nit pick, but I went in wanting to be entertained by Lin Man-crush Miranda and I was.