I’m one of the resident dads here on Lewton Bus. I am fortunate to be raising two smart, high-spirited young girls. That means I’ve seen more than my share of the usual girl media, like My Little Pony and Netflix’s Spirit: Riding Free and the like. But I’ve also made sure that my daughters have had an opportunity to enjoy the classics, from The Wizard of Oz to, uh, The Powerpuff Girls.
One of their favorites? Why, Mary Poppins, of course. Even after more than fifty years, it still crushes.
So when Disney announced Mary Poppins Returns, I, like many, raised a skeptical, quizzical eyebrow. Yet another long-delayed sequel to a decades-old property? Really? I laid long odds that this was going to be a worthwhile project, and wasn’t just yet another entry in the weird modern trend of much-belated followups, or a naked example of cynical IP management, or both.
Then, as the title character, the production cast Emily Blunt, a performer who, so far, hasn’t hit a single false note on screen, even when essaying roles across an almost impossibly broad range (not to mention, even when stuck in movies that don’t deserve her talent). She was followed closely by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a certified genius on multiple fronts. It seemed unlikely that these two would be wasting their time on nonsense. They were joined by Angela Lansbury, Emily Mortimer (another do-no-wrong actor), Colin Firth, David Warner (!), Meryl Streep, Ben Whishaw… and then Dick Van Dyke, still charming at the age of 92, signed up for the requisite cameo. And all of this under the directorial eye of Rob Marshall, who’s had generally good luck with musicals (Chicago, Into the Woods), though not always (Nine), along with a couple of other misfires (Pirates of the Caribbean: Johnny Depp Buys Expensive Wine). What is this movie?
When the first publicity stills were released, my skepticism returned. They featured a drab, ashy palette, the sort of grayish desaturation we’ve been enduring in everything from the last few Potter-verse movies to Tom Hooper’s disastrously wretched adaptation of Les Miserables. My heart sank, and my curiosity deflated back to skepticism. The next set of pictures was a huge improvement, but still, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Well, the first trailer was released today. And although it remains unclear whether the story will be worth telling (or what, exactly, the story might be, beyond an apparent retread of the first movie), my doubts about the tone and aesthetic have been washed away. Feast your eyes.
While the opening moments are drenched in the same dreary colorlessness of the publicity images, it quickly becomes apparent that those first pictures gave the wrong impression, and that the movie has much more to offer. Just in this preview, we have:
- Emily Blunt, following in the footsteps of Julie Andrews without doing a straight knockoff impression, balancing prim-and-proper authority with a mischievous twinkle of joy
- Lin-Manuel Miranda, unapologetically embracing the tradition of the ridiculous accent
- Dick Van Dyke, hoofin’ it like a man half his age
- A clearly deliberate progression from dingy gray to a warmer, brighter color scheme, until we finally get to a riotous blast of
- Hand-drawn animation! Yeah, there’s some CGI dolphins and whatever, but look at all the hand-drawn animation! And the singing! And the elaborate rooftop dance numbers! And the sheer joy!
Look, I have no idea if this is going to be any good. The throwaway bit about “losing our house!” feels like by-the-numbers stakes, and twisting Michael’s character from a kid who discovered magic with Mary the first time around to an adult who now rejects that magic feels obligatory and forced. Director Marshall’s output has been decidedly uneven, as noted, and screenwriter David Magee hasn’t done enough to give an impression one way or the other (Finding Neverland, hmmm; Life of Pi, urgh). But now, we know from this trailer that, if nothing else, Mary Poppins Returns will feel right, and that I will be joining ten zillion other parents worldwide in taking my children by the hands and skipping joyfully to the cinema.
Disney owns us all now. Best just get used to it.