Updated: Jan 27, 2019
Editor's Note: Thanks to Walt Disney Pictures for inviting us to an advanced screening for the purposes of review.
With a year of outstanding successes from Walt Disney Pictures, namely Black Panther and Incredibles 2, and disastrous failures such as he Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Mary Poppins Returns stands as the deciding factor for the intellectual monopoly this year. And through the combined efforts of Emily Blunt as the titular character and a fantastically realized production, Returns shifts the year far into Disney’s favor. It casts a unique spell of charm at every turn, allowing its childish moments to flourish on the big screen. It’s a rare experience that’s reminiscent of pristine, classic Disney productions. But that may yet be its biggest fault, as Returns often comes under strain when its predictable, overbearingly shallow middle act comes in. It’s in this sequence of events that director Rob Marshall attempts to throw egregiously long musical numbers at the screen in order to disguise the lack of material. But despite this and a handful of glaring issues, Mary Poppins Returns delivers spectacled madness with a hefty dose of heart to create the most charming film of 2018, serving as a delightful return home.
The original Mary Poppins was perceived as an instant classic, receiving thirteen nominations at the Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and taking five of those nominations home. Beyond the critical acclaim, the titular character became a staple of Disney culture, with her popularity even stretching to other in-house franchises, specifically Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As expected, there is immense pressure for director Rob Marshall and star Emily Blunt. After all, this is a character that has truly defined a generation. Fortunately, both Marshall and Blunt are able to seep the film into an awe-struck production. And yet, it could have all seemingly gone to waste if it wasn't for their efforts, since the screenplay rarely does Returns any favors.
Often times, the screenplay seems to lack bold, innovative flavors. It’s probable to assume that writer David Magee may have buckled under the pressure, and chose to retread similar ground as the first, rather than cover entirely new ground. And in certain elements, the creative decision does benefit the film. It makes a protective shield that allows the film to be familiar and instantly likable by the audience. But even so, I wish that Magee did take the franchise in new directions. And with the somewhat stark and open-ended conclusion, there isn’t a definite guarantee that there will be a satisfying continuation of the "practically perfect" nanny and the Banks family, at least not anytim