Review Roundup: Did the Critics Think MARY POPPINS RETURNS Was 'Practically Perfect in Every Way?'
Mary Poppins Returns officially opened in theaters everywhere on December 18! Now that the film is widely available, let's see what the critics are saying!
Read the first reviews here and check out even more below!
MARY POPPINS RETURNS is set in 1930s depression-era London (the time period of the original novels) and is drawn from the wealth of material in PL Travers' additional seven books. In the story, Michael (Whishaw) and Jane (Mortimer) are now grown up, with Michael, his three children and their housekeeper, Ellen (Walters), living on Cherry Tree Lane. After Michael suffers a personal loss, the enigmatic nanny Mary Poppins (Blunt) re-enters the lives of the Banks family, and, along with the optimistic street lamplighter Jack (Miranda), uses her unique magical skills to help THE FAMILY rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives. Mary Poppins also introduces the children to a new assortment of colorful and whimsical characters, including her eccentric cousin, Topsy (Streep).
The film is produced by Marshall, John DeLuca and Marc Platt. The screenplay is by David Magee based on The Mary Poppins Stories by PL Travers with Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman writing all new songs and Shaiman composing an original score.
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: Written by David Magee and directed by Rob Marshall, the movie ratchets up more than the family's existential stakes. Most everything in "Mary Poppins Returns" looks, feels and sounds like a sales pitch, with the exception of Whishaw's emotional rawness, which creates jagged little holes in the manufactured uplift. Much seems the same storywise, though, just amped up, including a neighbor with a booming cannon and the big smiles that at times turn characters, including Mary, into avatars for emotions that the movie rarely manages to tap. Blunt is versatile and a fine singer, but like most of the other actors, she's giving a broad performance rather than a convincingly felt one.
Brian Lowry, CNN: "Mary Poppins Returns" could just as easily be titled "Mary Poppins Remade." That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but a movie that descends from the clouds with a huge gust of nostalgia behind it only sporadically conjures magic between the title character's arrival and departure. The result is thus perfectly passable, but well short of practically perfect.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire: There's nothing wrong with telling kids to see the bright side of life, but this half-hearted throwback doesn't offer many compelling reasons why they should. For a movie that so insistently celebrates the power of imagination, Marshall's latest puts little of its own on display. For a movie about the pleasure of seeing things from a new perspective, it only works when it retreads familiar ground. And for a movie about the joy of escapism, "Mary Poppins Returns" seldom gives you anywhere to go.
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's new songs pale in comparison to the original's plucky exuberance and ageless melodies. But this heartfelt film is practically perfect in every other way.
Dana Stevens, Slate: ...this 21st-century installment of the Mary Poppins story depends perhaps a bit too much on our lasting goodwill for the first one. But it also provides enough pleasure on its own to leave us hoping it won't be 54 years until that familiar prim figure makes her next appearance through an opening in the clouds.
Mark Kermode, The Guardian: While it may not be practically perfect in every way, Mary Poppins Returns is never less than perfectly palatable, and in some ways comes close to perfection - practically speaking. If that sounds like damning with faint praise then rest assured; coming from a Poppins obsessive like me, it's a ringing endorsement.
Tom Gliatto, People: The new score, by Hairspray's Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, is melodic and sugary, driven along at times by oom-pah-pah merriment, but it too deliberately echoes (and fails to equal) the original. None of these new songs stirs the emotions with the simple, rewarding directness of hits from other recent family-oriented movies, such as "Remember Me" from Coco or "Tightrope" from The Greatest Showman. The music falls short-it's fragilicious.
Linda Holmes, NPR: Emily Blunt, so often the best thing in everything she touches, is a wonder in this role. She has a sly, confident charm, just right for a character who exists only to improve the lives of others and then move along. Blunt plays Mary with a rich and dry wit, an earthy alto rather than the trilling soprano she was in 1964. It's the right decision. If she tried to sound like Julie Andrews, the comparisons would only have been harder on her. If she tried to imitate Andrews' precise bearing, the same thing would have happened. This is a distinct take on a character who is so unusual and so unforgettable.
Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: At the beginning of "Mary Poppins Returns" we're told that the story takes place "in the days of the great Slump." Meaning the Depression, of course, except that the elation merchants at Disney, bless their euphemizing hearts, avoided the word out of concern that it might be depressing. Rather than run the same risk, I'll note that I found this sequel deeply slumping, not to mention unnecessary, unmagical and often unfunny. The misuse of talent is what slumped me the most.
Lauren Tamaki, The New Yorker: In short, those of us who pursue Mariolatry-the worship of all things Poppins-are free to delight in this film. Indeed, it shifts a little nearer than its predecessor did to the spiky, peppery briskness of Travers's tales, and the whole enterprise exhales, as it should, an air of the politely mad.
Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post: I mean, homage is one thing, but this reeks less of nostalgia than sweat. There is so little tolerance for spontaneity, in a film that feels calibrated to the millimeter to be magical, that reactions like delight and surprise - when they occur at all - feel manufactured.
David Edelstein, Vulture: After that, I stayed with the movie a long time - longer than it deserved, really - but its spell had begun to dissipate the instant Mary's feet touched terra firma. Mary Poppins Returns is a work of painstaking re-creation, and it's full of nice touches. But it's a bit of a dud.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: It would have been a treat to see Andrews one more time in her Oscar-winning role. But the last thing this hard-working sequel needs is another reason to cast it in the shadow of its predecessor. Still, when Blunt and Miranda cut through the film's glucose overload and take off into the wild blue of their own unique and extraordinary talents, Mary Poppins Returns shows it has the power to leave you deliriously happy.
Robbie Collin, Telegraph: If I don't say it, another critic will: Mary Poppins Returns really is practically perfect in every way. Walt Disney Pictures clearly realise the legacy of their beloved 1964 musical adaptation of PL Travers' Mary Poppins stories is not to be trifled with.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: There's probably no real reason for "Mary Poppins Returns" to exist at all, but now that it's here, it does at least find some moments of delight even as it travels a familiar path.