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Mary Poppins Returns - Film Review

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by May Cross (subscribe)
I'm a writer, artist and keen photographer.
Published January 8th 2019
Practically perfect in every way
Want to experience a couple of hours of wonder and joy? This delightful new film will transport you and the kids to another era with picture-perfect children and houses. Mary Poppins Returns is all-singing and all-dancing, but it is more than just a musical. The beautiful voices of the little grown-ups prove that they weren't just chosen for their adorable cuteness. They are a new generation of Banks children, just as the audience will be a whole new generation of captivated believers. The movie is fantastical with magic and miracles but is still quaintly old-fashioned entertainment.

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Mary Poppins' Gloves (May Cross)

The film is based on the writings of PL Travers, the author of the children's book Mary Poppins and six of her other books. (Did you know she was born in Maryborough Queensland?) It is set in 1930s depression, or "the Great Slump" which is the period of the original stories. The film opens with a song, "Underneath the Lovely London Sky" although it looks like a right ol' pea-souper of a day to me. The beautiful main title paintings were inspired by a famous Disney artist. Computer Generated Images merge with the reality scenes seamlessly. There is a cartoon quality to many of the scenes with my favourite being the fantasy underwater number "Can You Imagine That?" with everything you could ever dream of. With Mary Poppins, everything is possible, even the impossible. Pure Disney.

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Mary Poppins Returns Book (May Cross)

It is not a remake of the original Mary Poppins, but a sequel. You (and the kids) don't need to have seen the original but who hasn't seen the classic many times over? However, if you have seen it, it will increase your enjoyment and add to the experience because this is a homage with many references to the original, in-jokes and adult humour (in a saucy but nice way). You'll recognise the references to "Let's Go Fly a Kite" and tuppence for the bird lady.

I don't want to be a spoilsport and give away too much of the storyline or any of the amusing situations the characters find themselves in, nor reveal the jokes and puns. I am sure you will have a giggle and maybe even feel a little sad (there's pathos, loss, baddies and nightmares). The song "Where the Lost Things Go" has a message about what you truly miss. The children's mother but be gone but she is not forgotten.

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Mary Poppins' Dotty Scarf (May Cross)

It does gentle (Cockney) humour that the British do so well. I, and the rest of the mixed-age preview audience laughed out loud many times. It has a very English feel of course right from the opening views over London with cobble-stone alleys. You'll recognise a lot of the landmarks such as St Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Buck Palace, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Charing Cross and Tower Bridge to name a few; and I found myself playing "I've been there."

The movie is alive with colourful characters. It stars two of my favourite Emilys: Blunt (as the eponymous Mary Poppins) and Mortimer (Aunt Jane). Emily Blunt looked like she was having a whale of a time and was on the verge of laughter with her enigmatic Mona Lisa smile. Mary Poppins hasn't aged a day (but don't mention a woman's age that's just rude). Of course, there will be comparisons with Julie Andrews, but Blunt will surprise and delight you. There's no soup, a cauli, fridge, elastic, eggs, pea, halitosis (was that a song or is it just my shopping list?). Colin Firth is smarmily convincing as the nasty, cheating wolf of a banker. (He has changed dramatically since he was the charming Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice).

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Disney's Mary Poppins Notebook (May Cross)

One of the best performances (and they are all super) is by Meryl Streep who plays Topsy Turvy, Mary's eccentric cousin, who can fix anything. Her scene is set in an Aladdin's cave of an antique/junk shop, where the cast turns turtle, down here up on the ceiling, and sings "Turtle Swing". This new point of view is hilarious and visually splendid, and you'll discover your topsy from your bottomsy. Streep's unusual accent is funny, but not as comical as Dick van Dyck's attempt at cockney in the original, which was just plain laughably bad. Dick has a lovely cameo role in this film the only one from the original cast to make a special appearance. And not a chim-chimney in sight.

Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) is the gas lamplighter. Leery speak is Cockney rhyming slang, such as road becomes frog and toad. You'll want to get up and dance to "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" (or "Rip A Lil Tight Elastic" as my wee Eddie sings). It will fill your head with stuff and nonsense (can I hear Crowded House in the distance?). Another song and dance routine, with a vaudeville feel, is "A cover is nice, but a cover is not the book". Look out for the fabulous book staircase.

The film is visually stunning. The costume designs are sumptuous and whimsical. Mary, in her red gloves, is as dotty as her scarf. She still has her talking parrot umbrella and Tardis-like carpet bag from the original story. I loved the English boater hats and blazers as well as crocheted creations and flowers. The Spring Fair scene is as British as Paddington Bear; e.g.fairy floss, candy pink stripes, May pole, hoopla, Ferris wheel and the balloon lady (Angela Landsbury Murder She Wrote and Bedknobs and Broomsticks). There is nowhere to go but up.

I have been left with a beautiful image of Mary riding a bike side saddle. As she says, "How different can it be to riding an elephant?" It's all a question of balance with five riding on a bike with a ladder.

"Are you sure this is quite safe?"

"Not in the slightest."

Details at a Glance:
Release date: Disney's "Mary Poppins Returns" opens in cinemas New Year's Day.
Genre: Musical/Family
Studio: Disney
Director and Producer: Rob Marshall
Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Dick Van Dyke, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Angela Landsbury.

Thank you, Mary Poppins. Goodbye old friend.

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*May Cross was invited as a guest
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Why? As much fun for adults as kids
When: from 1 January 2019
Where: Cinemas Australia wide
Cost: see cinema prices
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