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Mary Poppins Returns Movie Review: Magical but a Bit Dated

The classic film sequel is fun but isn’t updated for modern audiences.

Reviewed by on Dec 19, 2018
Rating: 3 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw Mary Poppins Returns. Will you love the music and the story? Is it really for modern families or should the classic 1964 film just be watched on home entertainment instead? Read our movie review.

By: Lynn Barker

Mary Poppins Returns to a 1930’s depression-era London (The time period of the original novels). Original children from the 1964 film Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) Banks are now grown up. After Michael’s family suffers a personal loss and may lose the family home, the magical nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) pops back in and, teaming up with the upbeat street lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Mary uses her otherworldly skills to help the family survive and rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.

Lamplighter Jack is optimisticLamplighter Jack is optimisticCourtesy of Disney

Mary Poppins Returns Trailer #2

In Need of Rescue

It’s early morning in London and lamplighter Jack is shutting off lamps while expressing how optimistic he is in song. He has a feeling “something” is going to change despite bad times. Lawyers for a bank come to Michael Banks’ door to announce that his loan is three months overdue and he has just five days, with a midnight deadline, to pay it back or his house will be foreclosed on. He simply doesn’t have the money. The kids Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and little Georgie (Joel Dawson) sense how sad and overworked dad is since their mom Kate died. Their aunt Jane is a social worker who can only support the family with a lot of love.

Mary surprises Michael and JaneMary surprises Michael and JaneCourtesy of Disney

Mary to the Rescue

Knowing that Michael’s dad George had a certificate proving that he owned shares in the bank, the entire family starts looking for it so they can pay off the loan. Dad only find’s his wife’s music box and pearls and sinks further into sadness. Georgie finds an old, tattered kite that his dad used to fly. He flies it in a high wind and is almost swept away with it but nanny Mary Poppins floats down out of the sky holding onto it. Jack isn’t surprised. He knows her from when he was a kid helping chimney sweep Bert when Mary came the first time. Adult Michael and Jane are stunned to see her at the house announcing that she has come again to take care of the Banks children.

Finding his wife's music box makes Michael sadFinding his wife's music box makes Michael sadCourtesy of Disney

Was It Magic?

Mary does a few magical things that the kids see but the two adults are denying that what they saw her do in their childhoods was real. The kids are all dirty so she puts them in the bath which is a gateway to a magical, underwater kingdom. They frolic with fish, a giant rubber duckie and other ocean critters while Mary stirs their imaginations singing “Can You Imagine That?”. Later, Georgie finds dad’s drawing of their family and pockets it. Michael and Jane go to the bank but manager Wilkins (Colin Firth) says he can’t give them an extension on the loan deadline. We see that he does know about the certificate but won’t help them. He’s busy foreclosing on houses and making the bank and himself rich.

Jack gives Mary and the kids a rideJack gives Mary and the kids a rideCourtesy of Disney

Breaking the Bowl

Georgie cuts up the family drawing and uses pieces to patch the kite. The kids accidentally break a Royal Doulton china bowl they hoped to sell to help pay the loan. Mary magically takes them into the artwork on the bowl where they, along with Jack hope to repair it but end up in a singing/dancing adventure with talking animals etc. at the “Royal Doulton Music Hall” where the chorus girls are pink flamingoes. To stress the fact that things aren’t necessarily as they seem, Mary and Jack perform “A Cover is Not the Book” (which of course, encourages us all to read). After a chase because some of the animals have stolen things from the kids’ nursery, everyone ends up back home.

A Cover is Not the BookA Cover is Not the BookCourtesy of Disney

Missing Mom

Seeing that the kids miss their mom, Mary convinces them that she is always watching and loving them from “Where the Lost Things Are”. Tomorrow they will take the bowl for repair to Mary’s cousin Topsy (Meryl Street) who has a shop and “fixes things”. We see that Jack and Jane have started a flirty relationship that everyone approves of. Mary and the kids take the bowl to Topsy, whose shop and world turns upside down (literally) every second Wednesday….today. She sings “Turning Turtle” about her upside down world then says the bowl is priceless alright but not in monetary value, just in their mother’s eyes. It won’t help them. The message here is change your point of view.

Cousin Topsy can fix the bowlCousin Topsy can fix the bowlCourtesy of Disney

To the Bank

Mary and the kids go to the bank hoping one of the more friendly lawyers will help them. The kids overhear that Wilkins plans to reposses many homes and he won’t bend an inch to help Michael save his. When they tell their dad, who has a minor job at the bank, he doesn’t believe them and is angry at them when Wilkins is mad and threatens his job. On the way home a fog rolls in and Mary and the kids are lost. Jack and his lamplighters come to the rescue with an upbeat song and dance called “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”.  At home, the kids convince dad that mom is still with them from “Where the Lost Things Are”. He makes up with them.

Singing dancing lamplightersSinging dancing lamplightersCourtesy of Disney

The Deadline

With the midnight deadline at hand, the furniture in the house is repossessed and the kids pack up to move out. Can the family find the missing stock certificate in the nick of time? Will Mary use her magic and can Jack help? Can the elderly, original bank manager Mr. Dawes Jr. (Dick Van Dyke) prove that Michael ever owned the stocks?

Can elderly Mr. Dawes Jr. save the day?Can elderly Mr. Dawes Jr. save the day?Courtesy of Disney

Wrapping Up

Everyone is working really hard to make this sequel to Disney’s 1964 landmark musical pay tribute without copying but there are a lot of overly-familiar elements. Although the songs are new, instead of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” there is “Nowhere to Go But Up” with balloons standing in for kites and there are many other comparisons. The new songs reflect the action, get story points across and teach morals. They are entertaining enough but you won’t remember them as well as “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialdocious,” or “Chim Chim Cheree.” Some plot points (i.e. where the stock certificate actually is) are too easy to guess.

Mary makes magicMary makes magicCourtesy of Disney

Dances look dated and out of a 1950’s musical and “flat” single plane animation sequences also look “old” in our world of digital animation wonders. Kids in my audience were squirming and getting up and down a lot during the film.

Inside the art on the bowlInside the art on the bowlCourtesy of Disney

Emily Blunt is very good as the famous nanny but plays Mary as a little more stern than smiley, light-hearted and charming and her singing voice is nice but nowhere near Julie Andrews’ perfect soprano. Lin-Manuel Miranda is very competent in his singing and dancing but seems miscast as a spry young love interest for Jane. Smaller performances by Meryl Streep, Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury are all charming and highpoints in the movie.

Mary can be stern and vainMary can be stern and vainCourtesy of Disney

On the plus side, the theme of a nanny helping a family rediscover the joy and childhood wonder in their lives is a very nice one this holiday season and in our troubled times even if it is presented in a kind of dated, “sweetsie” manner.  A lot of modern tweens and teens might think of the film as “corny” although parents and even grandparents who grew up with the original will probably latch onto the similarities and love it.

Mary joins the danceMary joins the danceCourtesy of Disney

If you aren’t a big fan of the original film and haven’t seen it over and over, you might enjoy this sequel more because, although entertaining, it doesn’t really capture the charm and fantasy of the original. Overall, I like the original Disney films and wish the studio would stop re-making all of its animated classics in live action.. Next year comes The Lion King, Dumbo, Aladdin and more. Can’t they just leave the classics alone and tell some new stories? Giving the film an “A” for effort, we can still only go three stars.

Mary Poppins Returns Movie Rating: 3

Mary Poppins Returns Movie PosterMary Poppins Returns Movie Poster

See Mary Poppins Returns in theaters now!

Do You Have a Different Opinion?  

If you disagree with this review after seeing the film, we want to hear from you. Your opinion counts! Is old-fashioned singing and dancing okay with you or do you prefer a more modern film? Do you think Disney should or shouldn’t remake their animated films?  Leave a comment below or write your own review on your Kidzworld profile page!