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Mary Poppins Returns (PG)
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Caution: spoilers.

This is the sequel to Mary Poppins. It came out in 2018, fifty-four years after the original. I actually got to see it in a theater with my aunts and uncles, the day after Christmas. Anyway, I really wanted to love the movie, considering the original was so great. But I could only manage to like it. I mean, I liked it a lot, but, still. It's got good songs, but not quite as good as the original. It's got great choreography. It's got a great cast. It's got fun magical adventures. It's got decent humor and drama. I suppose there are really just a few things working against my ability to appreciate the movie more than I did. One is the fact that it can't possibly have nostalgic value for me, like the original does. Another is that, as fun and magical as the adventures are, they felt a bit too modern, to me. Too computer-generated, or something. And probably the biggest problem is the main story: Title character aside, it didn't feel original at all. The plot has been done by countless other movies. Also, it ends up feeling like a sort of framework that exists just to hold up the magical bits of the story.

Well, I guess it's set in 1935 (just 25 years after the setting of the original). It begins with a lamplighter named Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) singing as he goes about his job. We eventually learn that when he was a young boy, he had been apprenticed to Bert, from the original film. The story focuses on the children from the first film, Jane and Michael Banks, who are now grown up. Jane (Emily Mortimer) is a labor activist. And Jack eventually becomes a potential love interest for her. Michael (Ben Whishaw) is widowed, and raising his three children alone. (Well, of course he has help from his sister Jane, and from his housekeeper, Ellen, who used to work for Michael and Jane's father, George Banks.) Michael now has a part time job working at the bank where his father used to work. But he's been absentminded since his wife died, and hasn't done a great job of keeping things in order... so he's a few months behind on his loan repayments. Two lawyers, Hamilton Gooding and Templeton Frye, come by Michael's house to inform him he has five days to repay the full amount of the loan, or else his house will be repossessed. When Michael and Jane remember that their father had left them shares in the bank, they frantically begin searching the house for the certificate of shares. And George decides to throw out a lot of old things no one needed anymore... including the kite from the end of the original movie.

Michael's children, Annabel, John, and Georgie, spend a lot of time on their own. While in the park, Georgie finds the kite, which the wind had blown there from outside their house. He tries to fly it, it nearly flies away with him in tow, but he gets some help from Jack. And then Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) shows up, holding on to the kite string, and she descends to Earth as the kite is reeled in. She goes home with them, and insists on becoming the children's nanny. Jane and Michael both remember her from when they were children themselves, but they don't believe any of their magical adventures with her really happened; they assume it was just their imagination. Anyway... of course the three children soon start having adventures of their own (some animated, some not) with Mary Poppins and Jack (who also remembered Mary Poppins from when he was a kid, but unlike Jane and Michael, he never forgot that the magic was real). But I don't want to spoil any of those adventures.

Well, I should also say the current president of the bank where Michael works (and where he got his loan) is William Wilkins (Colin Firth), who pretends to want to help Michael, while secretly determined to repossess Michael's house, and lying about having records of Jane and Michael's shares. So... he's the villain of the film, with his henchmen being the lawyers I mentioned earlier. But while Gooding is perfectly happy to go along with his boss's greedy scheme, Frye is much more sympathetic to the Bankses. Of course, Michael eventually does find the certificate (and it was totally predictable where it would turn out to be). But Wilkins and Gooding do all they can not to let Michael back into the bank to show Wilkins the certificate. However... Michael does eventually get the loan paid, but the actual way that happened was not quite what we're meant to expect. (In fact, it reminded me of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.) And... I guess I don't want to spoil any more of that part of the plot.

Other than that, all I can think to add is that there are some fun appearances by familiar actors, including Meryl Streep, David Warner, Angela Lansbury, and Dick Van Dyke.


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