Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mary Poppins Returns: Worth Watching

Every now and then, Disney pulls off the unthinkable ... making a decent sequel to a perfect movie. Despite a couple of distractions, I was blown away with how much of the original magic made it into this release, and how well it was made to relate to a newer generation.

Just like the first movie, this one seems to remind each of us what we can learn from children and how to reach our inner child.

Michael and Jane are now older. Michael, who still lives in the Banks household, has lost his wife, and now his sister is staying with them to help. Having accrued too much debt, Michael is about to lose the home to the bank -- all making for a perfect time for Mary Poppins to return.

My two youngest children, who don't remember the original, seemed to love this movie. It spoke to them.

For me, it was more of revisiting what I had already seen, as many of my emotional responses were from remembering scenes from the original. The sequel relies heavily on the original form and plot. In fact, almost everything from the original seems to be mapped to something in the sequel. In some respects, the sequel did better, and in others it came only close.

My only disappointment was that the writers decided to introduce a nefarious element. Since the original movie had already demonstrated how a writer can build so much tension without there being any "truly bad guys," I was disappointed to see bad guys in the sequel. It didn't faze my children, though, who are more than used to that Hollywood formula. It just felt out of place for a Mary Poppins movie. Plus, the plot would have been nearly the same with the nefarious elements removed.

The music was great, though slightly inferior to the original. If I were to give the first score a 10, I'd give this one a 9. The songs were good and intelligent, but just slightly less memorable than the original songs. Plus, I heard more parallel 5ths in the newer film, which usually distracts me. The "music box" scene was quite effective until right before the box was closed when the music played just one non-music-box note that took me out of the moment. My 13-year-old daughter also independently pointed out that "wrong" note.

One of the songs, which was cleverly worded and performed, seemed a little too "burlesque" for a Mary Poppins movie. I enjoyed it, but it felt out of place.

And one more thing about the music I must compliment before wrapping up ... something that really needs to be said: if there was any auto-tuning going on, it was very well done and nonintrusive. I perhaps heard some minor auto-tuning for Jack in the very last song, but other than that, it sounded like real human beings singing. Disney in particular has been very bad and lazy with auto-tuning in their recent movies, and this was a pleasant surprise.

If you haven't yet seen this movie, I would recommend it for a great family outing. Go ahead and bring out that inner child and perhaps leave feeling better about the world around you.

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