HOLLYWOOD—It only took 54 years, but a sequel to the classic “Mary Poppins” has finally reached the big screen. There is just one major problem: Oscar-winner Julie Andrews isn’t the star America. “Mary Poppins Returns” brings the iconic character of Mary Poppins back to the big screen, but Andrews isn’t assuming the role, its actress Emily Blunt who has that honor.
Blunt is fine in the role, but as we all know she is not Andrews in any way. We know she has the singing chops thanks to her role in the musical “Into the Woods,” where she co-starred alongside Meryl Streep. Blunt brings charisma and perfection to the role, but as a viewer, and anyone who is a fan of the original, you’re antsy hoping, for the slightest glimmer that Julie will show up. The iconic actress makes an appearance in the film, but it leaves you wondering if the filmmakers were able to get Andrews, why not use her for the iconic role?
The film’s premise is a simple one that is easy for the audience to follow, as we see an older Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) see their worlds turned upside down when Mary returns to help them care for Michael’s kids after the passing of his wife. The movie is more a tale about Michael trying to save his family’s home from being taken by the president of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank portrayed by Colin Firth.
Let’s be honest no one came to see “Mary Poppins Returns” for the narrative or the acting, it’s for the music, and that’s where the ball is dropped in a major way. None of the songs are memorable and that is problematic considering this is a musical. You come for the music, you long for that tune or melody to get stuck in your head; the one that you can always name when you’re talking about your favorite musicals. That doesn’t happen with this sequel and it’s a shame when you compare the iconic songs from its predecessor.
Director Rob Marshall does a decent job bringing Poppins and the 1930s decorum the audience is presented to the screen, but as viewer you want more. Especially considering Marshall helmed such great musicals like “Chicago” and “Into the Woods.” The musical is NOT lacking talent in any capacity whatsoever. I mean Blunt, Whishaw and Mortimer do fine jobs in their roles, and the kids are also charming as well.
In addition to Andrews, her co-star Dick Van Dyke appears in the film, as does acting legend Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury and Lin-Manuel Miranda. I will argue Miranda’s character seems out of loop in the script; you don’t quite understand his presence and his centrality to the movie just didn’t click for me. Is “Mary Poppins Returns” entertaining? Yes, but is it memorable? No, and that is the problem because you will always compare it to its predecessor. This sequel had big shoes to fill and just doesn’t’ get there.