Mary Poppins Returns

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/19/19;
Disney;
Musical;
Box Office $171.69 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘
PG’ for some mild thematic elements and brief action.
Stars Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, David Warner, Jim Norton, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Dick Van Dyke.

There’s a lyric at the beginning of the original 1964 Mary Poppins in which Dick Van Dyke sings “what’s to happen all happened before.” It’s a line that hints at the mysterious nature of the magical nanny but seems a bit curious in the context at the beginning of a story in which we as an audience have yet to witness any of Mary Poppins’ adventures.

Rather, that prophetically tinged turn of phrase would seem to have more meaning when applied to this new installment, which bears fruit for the notion that Mary Poppins’ adventures are somehow cyclical.

The sequel that has been 54 years in the making has been carefully crafted for each story beat to resonate with an equivalent scene from the first film. Indeed, such echoes of the original are even reflected in the musical score, which always seems to play a few nostalgic notes when appropriate.

In the new story based on author P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins novels, the nanny returns some two decades later when the now grown Banks children, Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) find themselves in a bit of a financial crisis. Michael’s life is in disarray a year after the tragic death of his wife, and the financial toll exacted by her loss have put their famous house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane in danger of being seized by the bank. As Michael seems ready to given in to cynicism and despair, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) reappears to ostensibly take care of Michael’s three children while infusing a new sense of joy and imagination into everyone’s day.

Mary Poppins Returns is an effective follow-up to the original classic, capturing its spirit of whimsy with a slate of catchy tunes, even if its story could use some fine-tuning at points. While every sequence more or less serves a central premise of approaching life with a variety of perspectives, some moments seem less relevant to the primary narrative than others. Colin Firth’s bank executive, for example, seems to want the house just for the sake of typical movie villain greed, where the plot could have given him a more personal stake in the Banks family story by, say, establishing he had a grudge against their father, George, who was a senior partner at the bank.

Likewise, the film’s most eccentric musical number, “Turning Turtle,” seems to exist only to provide an outlet for interesting ideas from the books the filmmakers wanted to use couldn’t infuse elsewhere in the story, resulting in a superfluous guest appearance by Meryl Streep. ‘

Much more effective is a practically perfect appearance by the iconic Angela Lansbury as the magical balloon lady, whose perfectly “Nowhere to Go but Up” number is the most memorable of film while most effectively reminding young and old alike to never lose sight of their childlike sense of wonder.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray are mostly focused on the creation of the various musical numbers, from the 23-minute “The Practically Perfect Making of Mary Poppins Returns” to the 18-minute “Seeing Things From a Different Point of View: The Musical Numbers of Mary Poppins Returns.” And the five-and-a-half-minute “Back to Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns” delves into the now 93-year-old actor’s cameo in the new film.

The disc also includes a deleted song sequence that was replaced by another piece early enough so that the version presented here is a scratch track set to animated storyboards. The total sequence, called “The Anthropomorphic Zoo,” runs about five minutes.

There are also two true deleted scenes that run about a minute each that are extensions of musical sequences that are in the final film, as well as a two-minute blooper reel.

The disc also offers the movie in a sing-along mode that shows the lyrics during the various song sequences (as opposed to closed captioning showing all the dialogue).

The digital edition, which can be accessed using the Movies Anywhere redemption code included with the Blu-ray combo pack, offers an informative commentary with director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca.

Movies Anywhere also has two more vignettes, each running more than a minute. “Different Worlds: Creating Mary Poppins Returns is a shorter clip from the longer making-of featurette about the making of an animated sequence. And “What Is Your Favorite Disney Musical?” is a promotional video in which the title question is asked to various cast members.

Finally, the digital version on Vudu offers a three-minute featurette about the cameo of actress Karen Dotrice, who played young Jane in the original film.

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