Mary Poppins Returns Hope

Mary Poppins Returns Hope

My site is particularly dedicated to best in business practices at Disney. It’s not about being a movie critic. But I need to sing (in D flat) the praises of Mary Poppins Returns, and I need to encourage any and all who read this site to see this movie.

But first a little context.

The original Mary Poppins is probably the first movie I ever saw in a theater, and the songs were probably some of the first songs I learned as a child. I want to say I saw it at the Palms Theater in Phoenix not only with my mother but with my mother’s best friend, Mary. This was confusing to me because Mary looked to me like Mary Poppins. Moreover, she was as lovely and caring. Her daughter Chris had the Mary Poppins game, and I remembered playing when visiting their home.

Back then, you didn’t pick up a DVD or watch it on TV after it ran in the theater. Disney would release the film theatrically every seven years, which is a life time for child. But I had a copy of a Mary Poppins album. I played it over and over again.

It was wonderful to listen to, though surprisingly Marni Nixon actually did the recording for it. But that music was some of the first songs I heard as a child. In many ways it was the soundtrack of my youth. When I was twelve, I wrote Buena Vista Records for the actual album sound track. They sent me back a catalog and I ordered off of it. That was amazing. I played it over and over.

We grew up in Phoenix. And I went to Disneyland in my summers. But one big event annually was when Disney On Parade came into town. And the fourth season of that show focused on Mary Poppins. It wasn’t a literal re-telling of the story, but I learned that in theatrical terms it didn’t have to be. I loved that show and saw Mary Poppins in a new way.

The Mary Poppins finale of Disney on Parade.

All of these events combined made Mary Poppins a beloved part of my childhood. I have deep emotional ties to the original film. It is part of my DNA. And why? Because the story’s message was about having hope. Hope is why Mary Poppins endures.

So needless to say, I am a guardian of the original brand.

As an adult I saw the broadway version a couple of times, once with my wife, and once with two of my colleagues at work–one of whom was named Mary as well (and also, was practically perfect in every way). There were parts that were really awesome–especially Bert’s Step in Time number. Other aspects never succeeded, such as Jolly Holiday in the park, with a statue that came alive. That so did not work. Where were the penguins?!

Bert dancing upside down on the proscenium is a remarkable moment in any play.

I also loved much of Saving Mr. Banks–kind of. Tom Hanks didn’t look like Walt, but his mannerisms were very spot on. Emma Thompson was much more beautiful then P.L. Travers. The Australian segments were a little long in the tooth. But the ending was deep and profound–and importantly…it was about hope.

So with two Mary Poppins projects in the last 15 years being both a hit and a miss, I was skeptical when they announced Mary Poppins Returns. I don’t think I got my hopes up until I saw cartoon penguins in the previews. Then I wondered…could this work?

Well, I saw the film, and it is joyous in every way. Though parallel to the original, the story and its structure was perhaps more cohesive, and moved more smoothly compared to the first. I think it may have been a better written and directed film, but they had the advantage of the first movie to build off of.

Everyone’s performance was great, and not only did Emily Blunt pull off a wonderful Mary, with Lin Manuel Miranda playing her sidekick, I thought the actors portraying Jane and Michael were very true to their childhood counterparts. I related to them better than I did as a child to the children in the original film.

The music is superb, and when you add Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury, it’s over the top. By the end of the film you have something quite fun.

But importantly, I think you have something more critical to the film than anything else–hope. Hope is what these two films–these two bookends–have in common. It’s what Walt shares with P.L. Travers at the end of Saving Mr. Banks, “…that’s what us storytellers do–we restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.

Mary Poppins Returns does just that. With enormous scoops of imagination, it provides hope again and again and again. And in a world like ours, with all of its crazy uncertainties, we could use a little hope.

That’s why I invite you to see Mary Poppins Returns.

J. Jeff Kober

3 thoughts on “Mary Poppins Returns Hope

  1. Thanks for the review, you filled in my worries about a modern remake of a classic.
    I’m now looking forward to attending.

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