Mary Poppins Returns lets down hopefuls

Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda star in the sequel of the beloved 1964 classic, Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins Returns debuted in theaters on December 19.

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Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda star in the sequel of the beloved 1964 classic, Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins Returns debuted in theaters on December 19.

Isabella Klobukowski, Staff Writer

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If you’re looking for one too many spoonfuls of sugar, Mary Poppins Returns is for you. With an underwhelming soundtrack, dragging plot, and an overall copycat effect of its predecessor, this remake fell short.

Mary Poppins Returns follows the Banks family 25 years after the original 1964 film as they fight to save their house on Cherry Tree Lane.

The movie had a “shameless sense of imitation and the all but joyless drumbeat of duty,” according to The Washington Post critic Michael O’Sullivan. It was almost aggressively desperate to come across as happy. Some heartfelt scenes instead seem forced, others too garish. Mary Poppins Returns unsuccessfully borrows several elements from the first film. For one, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Cockney accent as the lamplighter Jack is painfully fake. Jack’s character may be a lighthearted hat-tip to Dick van Dyke’s chimney sweep Bert, but the accent was an unnecessary attempt at replication. Moreover, the song “Trip a Little Fantastic,” sung by Jack and his fellow lamplighters, all but plagiarized “Step In Time,” in a bland way.

The other songs were no better. “It’s perhaps unsurprising that the songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman — who have done memorable work elsewhere — are the gravest disappointment,” said New York Times critic Manohla Dargis. The soundtrack might appear serviceable until you listen to the original again. Not even Lin-Manuel Miranda can save the drab melody of his first number, “Underneath the London Sky.” When compared to the songs by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack goes through one ear and straight out the other. As it is, no vocals could save the flop of the film’s second-rate music.

On the bright side — or shall I say, supercalifragilistic side — audiences are sure to smile at Dick van Dyke’s brief cameo. At 92 years old, he appears as an elderly banker rather than a chimney sweep. Not only does he brighten things up, but he proves himself an able dancer.

The delightfully vintage setting is also one of the better parts of the film. The charming, old-timey throwback to the Cherry Tree Lane of the ‘60s was well-appreciated by nostalgic audiences.

On a more mediocre note, Mary Poppins does not truly return in this shoddy remake. It’s as if Emily Blunt stole Julie Andrews’ umbrella. Despite the fact that Blunt is certainly a versatile vocalist, and her lines are delivered with cheekiness, her attitude doesn’t quite match with that of Mary Poppins. Blunt seems to suppress her energy, saving it for secret smiles. During banter with other characters she dazzles, but in her role as “nanny” she is lacking.

When it comes to the overall performance, there is plenty of room for improvement. For example, in more emotional scenes, such as when John speaks about his dead wife, Disney appears unable to navigate loss and the rawness of the scene: While Ben Wishaw — who played John — portrayed his grief with dramatic intensity, the scene played out with a heaping sweetness and saccharine resolution that left a bad aftertaste. A better script would have entailed more bitterness than sweetness to imply more vulnerability, rather than the stereotypical gloss-over of serious topics that Disney tends toward.

In brief, Mary Poppins Returns was a disappointing remake of a classic film. A movie that was once practically perfect in every way, is now sharing its namesake with a sequel that leaves the audience unsatisfied.

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