Blunt plays an arch, aloof and sly Mary Poppins. And Miranda can rap but not sing. There is no chemistry between them.
I never saw the 1964 Disney classic (quelle horreur!), so I can easily review MARY POPPINS RETURNS without referencing or comparing it to the original. I do not miss Julie Andrews or Dick Van Dyke.
Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), who lights and extinguishes street lamps, opens the movie “singing” – an attempt at singing – a very long song. Its 1930s London and the Banks children, now grown, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer), seemed to have forgotten the magical, mysterious nanny who came to their rescue many years ago when they were growing up. Michael's’s wife has died leaving him three children: twins John (Nathanael Saleh) and Annabel (Pixie Davies) and younger brother Georgie (Joel Dawsons) and a big debt. Ben is about to lose the family house.
Thank God none of the children are too smart. They are just kids.
So right off the bat, the film is a bummer. The kids miss their mother. Screenwriter David Magee (with a story by Magee, director Rob Marshall and John DeLuca) quickly moves past this tragedy to another one by introducing the imminent loss of the family’s home. While this crisis is evolving, Mary Poppins returns, once again flying into town to care for the second-generation Banks.
Apparently, Mr. Banks needs a lot of help. He’s a failed artist, a new widower, a lowly clerk at a bank, and can’t keep his finances straight.
School work? Chores? Mary Poppins is not that kind of nanny. She is all about being neat and clean and going on wondrous adventures underwater. And it’s a grand escapade! With fancy clothes and costumes, the children are delirious with pleasure even as their home is being threatened.
Michael and his sensible sister have forgotten the magic that Mary Poppins brings. Michael is very dark with black-black hair. He yells. Michael does not come off very friendly. The childhood happiness he and his sister had with Mary Poppins seems to have been forgotten. She is back, but why? And how can a nanny who can fly and create magic do nothing to save their home?
Michael and Jane never even mention it to Mary Poppins.
Michael is strict with the children and upset over failing to save the family’s ancestral home in central London. The house will be foreclosed by the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank’s mean president, William Weatherall Wilkins (Colin Firth), even though he knows that the bank’s founder gave shares to Michael's and Jane’s father. If the stock certificate were produced, the house would not be taken from the Banks.
Bluntly put, there is just not enough of Blunt. When she is not on the screen, you are waiting for her. Blunt is terrific with an arch English manner and an air of superiority. The glaring problem with MARY POPPINS RETURNS is the miscasting of Whishaw, Mortimer Miranda and Meryl Streep. Finally, Streep missteps as Cousin Topsy. It reminded me of John Travolta as Edna Turnblad in HAIRSPRAY.
The Broadway phenomenon HAMILTON ordained its creator-star a lightning rod of talent, but he lacks cinematic charisma, a decent English accent, and frankly, there was a tad too much of him.
I do not know what Julie Andrews brought to the role of Mary Poppins, but I am pretty sure that Blunt eclipsed her with her superior attitude and comely indifference to customs. Blunt made Mary Poppins her own.
You will also notice that in 1930 London, Disney’s 2018 version achieves a Ferris Wheel of inclusiveness.