Plot: What’s it about?
Disney is in need of money. Wait, no they aren’t. Recently, they’ve discovered a formula: make live-action films out of their classic animated films and rake in even more cash. It’s working (so far). But what of those films from the “Golden Age” that were already live-action? None were more beloved than Mary Poppins which teamed Julie Andrews with Dick Van Dyke and gave us some songs for the ages. Over five decades have passed since we met the titular character, so it was time to introduce her to a new generation of possible fans. The story remains the same…sort of.
Michael (Ben Wishaw) has just lost his wife and now stands to lose his house along with his three children: John (Nathanael Saleh), Georgie (Joel Dawson) and Annabel (Pixie Davies). His sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer) does her best to offer support, but realizes that there’s very little assistance she can offer. But true help does finally arrive in the form of his former nanny, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt). Her entrance from the sky on a kite is, certainly, the thing dreams are made of. She helps with the children all the while Michael tries to find an elusive stock certificate so as to erase his debt. Mary and Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), who has grown fond of Mary, team up on a series of adventures with the children in tow and encounter many whimsical, colorful characters.
When it comes to movie musicals, for me it begins and ends with two films: The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain. I like others, but if I could choose only a couple, it’d be those two. Sure, I can toe tap to tunes like “Chim Chim Cheree” and “A Spoonful of Sugar”, but give me “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “Moses Supposes” any day of the week and I’ll be in heaven. There’s a lot to like about Mary Poppins Returns and Emily Blunt does a fine job. She’s no Julie Andrews, but I don’t think anyone was expecting her to be. While no substitute for its predecessor, the film has enough of the ‘ol Disney magic to merit a viewing.
Video: How’s it look?
Essentially everything you could fit into a motion picture is covered here with the opening sequence being set in what we all think London looks like (dark and dreary). Thankfully, the colors come out in full force and the 2.39:1 AVC HD transfer starts to show its literal “true colors.” And yes, there’s an animated sequence for nostalgic purposes. Or maybe it’s just the way they wanted to do things? In any case, Mary Poppins Returns does look the part with sharp, detailed images and strong contrast in most scenes. There’s not a lot to find wrong with the way this looks and with it being a new-to-the-format disc, viewers should be giddy with excitement.
Audio: How’s it sound?
There is a 4K version of this film that contains a Dolby Atmos mix, but alas we were sent the Blu-ray. ‘Tis ok. We’ll get over it. And, to be frank, the included DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 mix isn’t at all bad. There are songs galore that will give your speakers a workout and you’ll hear more English accents than you can shake a kite at (can you actually shake a kite?)! Directional effects are in full force here, the center channel sparkles with vocals galore and the surrounds add an extra layer of ambiance to brighten the mood. It’s a Mary Poppins (Returns) for cryin’ out loud! It’s got sound good! And it does!
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Song—“The Anthropomorphic Zoo”– In this early song sequence, Mary Poppins and the children visit a very special zoo where the humans and animals trade places.
- The Practically Perfect Making of Mary Poppins Returns– Join filmmakers and cast on an amazing journey to embrace the legacy of the original film while making a fresh modern sequel.
- Introduction– Filmmakers and cast remember the first Mary Poppins movie and share the thrill of working on “Mary Poppins Returns.”
- “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky”– Discover how the team mined PL Travers’ books for a fresh perspective on a much-loved character. Plus, meet the Banks children!
- “Can You Imagine That?”– Be on location for Mary’s iconic entrance from the sky, and explore the movie’s original songs, inspired by the Sherman Brothers.
- “Nowhere to Go but Up”– Experience being on set with the legendary Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury and celebrate the joy of choosing the right balloon!
- Seeing Things from a Different Point of View”: The Musical Numbers of Mary Poppins Returns – Go behind the scenes and experience the film’s production numbers from a new angle.
- “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”– Led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the cast performs the film’s biggest production number, with dancing lamplighters, bicyclists and more!
- “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” / “A Cover Is Not the Book”– Find out what it takes to create two musical extravaganzas inside an animated world, highlighted by dancing animated penguins!
- “Turning Turtle”– Mary’s eccentric cousin, Topsy Turvy, played by Meryl Streep, has an unusual house that turns this musical number upside-down.
- “Can You Imagine That?”– Dive under the bubbles with the cast and crew to see how this exuberant number was created.
- Back to Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns– Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert and Mr. Dawes Sr. in the first film, returns after 54 years to Cherry Tree Lane as Mr. Dawes Jr.
- Practically Perfect Bloopers– There’s nowhere to go but up with the cast and crew in this lighthearted collection of flubs, goofs and prop fails!
- Deleted Scenes
- Leaving Topsy’s– After their visit to Cousin Topsy, Mary, Jack and the children pause to take a look back.
- “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”– The leeries light up the screen in this extended clip from the movie’s biggest musical production.
- Play Movie in Sing-Along Mode– Sing along with all your favorite songs as you watch the movie.
The Bottom Line
It’s a little long and it’s certainly nowhere near as enjoyable as the original, but this is Mary Poppins for a new generation. Rob Marshall can make a great musical (Chicago), but I felt this one ultimately fell a bit flat. Still, the target audience will most likely get a kick out of this and should be good enough to entertain the family – once.