Richard sat down with “Mary Poppins Returns” star Emily Mortimer. She plays Jane Banks, the grown up version of the girl in the original story. We talked about her love of the original book and why the story has great resonance for today.
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns,” Natalie Portman in “Vox Lux” and Jason Mamoa as the underwater monarch “Aquaman.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Lois Lee to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ness of “Mary Poppins Returns,” the Transformers prequel “Bumblebee,” the underwater adventures of “Aquaman” and Natalie Portman as a pop star in “Vox Lux.”
Fifty-four years after Julie Andrews made her debut as “the practically perfect in every way” nanny, who flew in (courtesy of her parrot-handled umbrella) and introduced magic to the lives of the dysfunctional Banks family, the beloved Mary Poppins character is back in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The new Disney musical-fantasy picks up 25 years after the events of the classic, with Poppins, played by Emily Blunt, returning to help the Banks children after misfortune befalls the family.
Set in 1930s London during the Great Slump, a city of gaslights and chimney sweeps, “Mary Poppins Returns” sees the kids from the original Michael and Jane Banks all grown up and played by Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer. Michael’s wife passed away the year before and now he, his kids (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson) and housekeeper Ellen (Julie Walters) live in the Banks’s family home on Cherry Tree Lane, the house made famous by P. L. Travers.
When the bank calls in the loan Michael took against the house the family risks losing everything. “Pay back entire loan on the house or it will be repossessed in five days,” cackles the lawyer who delivers the notice. On that very day Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), the nanny who helped Michael and Jane as kids, and her magic bag come to the rescue. “Good thing you arrived when you did Mary Poppins,” says Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), former apprentice of Bert from the original film. Mary “I suspect that I am never incorrect” Poppins, helps the Banks family regain the joy and wonder that made their childhood years magical.
From the first song, “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky”—“Count your blessings,” sings Jack. “You’re a lucky guy.”—the movie establishes its uplifting tone. It’s a frothy, satisfying concoction of nostalgia, music, fanciful visuals, elegance and optimism; a spoonful of sugar in bitter times.
Director Rob Marshall has made a full-on musical that mixes the best of old and new Disney. This thoroughly modern movie feels old-fashioned in the sense that it takes its time with the music, allowing the songs to breathe and the lyrics to sink in. But it isn’t simply an exercise in recollection. The smart new songs (written by Marc Shaiman with lyrics by Scott Wittman) refresh a familiar story, mixing seamlessly with snippets of songs from the original film blended into the score.
There are huge musical numbers, including a wild underwater spectacular, but the songs that work best are the more modest tunes like “A Conversation,” Michael’s requiem for his late wide. “These rooms were always filled with magic but that vanished since you’ve gone away.” It is heartfelt and heartbreaking. Ditto Mary Poppins’s “The Place Where Lost Things Go.”
Still, this is a movie that brims with joy. When the spunky Banks kids tell Mary Poppins (no one ever calls her Mary or Miss Poppins, its always first and last names) that they have “grown up a great deal in the last year.” She replies, “Yes. We’ll have to see what we can do about that.”
Like “Christopher Robin” from earlier this year, “Mary Poppins Returns” is ultimately about the importance of staying young at heart. The film essays Michael’s sense of loss and longing, his frustration at not knowing how to go on without his wife but it’s the upbeat attitude that gives it depth. “Everything is possible, even the impossible,” is a cliché but in context it is a call to believe, to have faith. If Michael believes in himself everything will be OK. That’s a potent message, delivered with a spoonful of sugar or not.
The cast impresses, delivering the film’s message with charm and verve. Emily Blunt brings a mix of strictness—“Sit up straight you’re not a flower bag,” she scolds.—and mischievousness to her character, effortlessly slipping into some very big shoes. Miranda provides a dose of musical theatre. Meryl Streep, as Mary’s eccentric cousin Topsy, offers a fun and funny lesson in perspective and Dick Van Dyke’s cameo as Mr. Dawes Jr. connects the old and new.
“Mary Poppins Returns” feels modern without sacrificing its nostalgic charm. There’s no “Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious” but, like the first film, there is plenty of heart.
Unless the movie is called “Planet of the Apes” its faint praise to say the monkey is the best thing about a picture. Such is the case with “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” the third outing in the popular Ben Stiller kid’s franchise. Crystal the Monkey as Dexter a Capuchin monkey, gets the most laughs and is the only member of the top-of-the-line cast who doesn’t feel like they’re only in it for the big holiday movie paycheque.
On the third visit to the New York Natural History Museum we discover the Tablet of Ahkmenrah, the magical Egyptian plaque that gives its life force to the museum’s statues, allowing them to come to life after the sun goes down, is losing its power. Soon the tablet will die and so will animated exhibits Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams in one of his last movies), miniature men Jedediah and Octavius (Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan), and a Neanderthal named Laa (Ben Stiller). To save them night guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller again) travels to the British Museum to find the secret to restoring the artifact’s power.
“Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” beats the original premise into submission, blowing up the idea of a secret nightlife at the museum into the best example this year of how franchise filmmaking can go horribly wrong. Like the dimming tablet that slows down the wax exhibits, this movie sucks the life out of once interesting characters, placing them in a plot that is essentially an excuse to showcase more characters (like Dan Stevens as Sir Lancelot and a surprising and rather charming cameo from a very big star) and bigger special effects than in parts one and two.
There’s plenty of kid friendly slapstick and computer generated effects but a short action scene inside M. C. Escher’s topsy turvy staircase painting shows more imagination than the rest of the movie’s big set pieces put together.
It all feels old hat and despite the nostalgic rush of seeing the late Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams on the big screen, it’s less exciting to see Sir Ben Kingsley as Ahkmenrah’s father delivering bad double entendres like, “I am a pharaoh. Kiss my staff.” Andrea Martin has a fun blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo and the above mentioned cameo will raise a laugh, but as I left the theatre I couldn’t help but think my feelings about the film were best summed up by a line Octavius speaks just after a monkey urinates on him. “We must never speak of what happened here.”