Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel to the 1964 classic film that starred Julie Andrews in the title role, has plenty going for it. For one, it features Emily Blunt as Mary. Blunt plays Mary with her trademark sternness and does a decent job of singing too. Her sharp British accent alone is enough to make any child want to clean his or her room and stand up straight.
The film also includes the grinning, effervescent Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame. He capably fills the large shoes of Dick Van Dyke, who portrayed a chimney sweep in the original movie and has a cameo here. Miranda capably plays Jack, a guy who lights the city's street lamps, gleefully whistling and singing while he works.
It's all for naught, however, as this half-baked storyline doesn't give enough purpose to the film to make it seem like it was necessary. The movie, which promises to be one of the Christmas season's biggest blockbusters, is currently showing area-wide.
Set in London in the 1930s, the film follows Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer), the brother and sister from the first film. They're all grown up now, and Michael lives with his three children and housekeeper (Julie Waters). All is not well with Michael, however. He's just experienced a personal loss, and he's got money problems. In fact, he might even lose his house if he doesn't come up with the money he owes the bank, a point that the bank owner (Colin Firth) drives home during a visit to the homestead.
Enter Mary Poppins. She makes a grand entrance as Michael's son, young Georgie (Joel Dawson), chases a kite and grabs the string. With a little help from Jack, they reel it in and Mary Poppins comes along with it, gracefully landing in the park and announcing that she has come back to restore order to the household.
While Mary Poppins attends to the children's needs and introduces them to a magical aquatic underworld along the way, Michael tries to resolve his issues with the bank. Without giving anything away, we can assure you that all will be right with the Banks family by the film's conclusion.
A predictable ending could be forgiven if the film offered a better storyline leading up to it. But it's all highly rote and rather derivative of the original. And with the exception of the whimsical "Trip a Little Light Fantastic," a tune that features one of the best song-and-dance sequences in the movie, the songs here aren't nearly as memorable as the ones that the Sherman brothers wrote for the first movie.
With a hefty 130-minute running time, this movie sure could've used some better tunes to help carry it along.