That title applies in many walks of life and the cinema is a prime example. How often are remakes or part twos a disappointment? One needs to be cautious about tainting a brand.
It was with such thoughts that we travelled to our local Picturehouse to see the reincarnation of
Mary Poppins Returns.
I was seven when the first iteration emerged in 1964. I think – could be wrong as it’s now several weeks ago – that I might have been taken by or with my gran. I may have been at the seaside.
I do have extremely fond memories of it. I don’t know if it was especially innovative but I was captivated by the intermingling of cartoon characters and real life action shots. Dick Van Dyk dancing with penguins stands out…
My mother was there though, of that I am sure. I think she felt it was ok except, and this really ticked her off… the setting was London yet the robins were clearly American. I think that, even more than Dick’s fabled cockney accent got her goat. A stickler of avian accuracy was my mum.
We bought three tickets, thinking we’d take the MIL only the MIL had other ideas. Not for the first time was there a break down in communication. No one else was available so we had to sneak in if we weren’t to be spotted as the only people there unaccompanied by small sprogs or doddery aged parents. We need not have worried; the place was full of guilty pleasure seekers determined to reprise their youth.
Do you find yourself distracted by actors who you recognise from some recent piece of work (which you enjoyed) but which you can’t immediately place? Mr Banks – Ben Whishaw – did that to us.
‘I know him…’
‘Me to. What was he in?’
‘Oh shucks, it was on the TV…’
It’s a bugger, this, as it distracts you from the story – I hesitate to use the word ‘plot’ on something so ephemeral as Mary P – and every time the unplaced actor appears on screen your mind scrabbles around for some clue.
About thirty minutes in, when the children had somehow become part of the paintwork of a potty – I said I was distracted – the Textiliste hissed ‘That Thorpe play. He was the lover…’
For those not aware, Jeremy Thorpe was a major politician who was accused of trying to set up the murder of Norman Scott, his sometime gay lover back in the 1970s. It was a scandal then and a recent TV drama captured it all splendidly. Whishaw played Scott with the right mix of pathos and aggression that I recall from the time.
Somehow, though, the cuddly Mr Banks, who meanwhile was in desperate need of some solace up on screen, lost a certain charm by association with the duplicitous if awfully treated Scott’s .
Which was a shame because generally this was a perfectly fine piece of cinematography.
Emily Blunt must have had the odd sleepless night, taking on the part so associated with Julie Andrews but she handles it with charm and panache. Her lamplighter Passepartout-cum-Sancho Panza is a bit to cheeky-grinny for my tastes but Whishaw and especially Emily Mortimer (as Mr Banks sister) and, naturally Julie Waters as the inevitably long suffering cook give some weight to the proceedings. The songs are top-tappy if not quite of the Spoonful of Sugar class and even Dick van Dyk’s cameo kind of works.
There are enough homages to the original to amuse; the plot – alright, yes there was a plot – is about good enough; the baddy, in the guess of Bank chief executive Colin Firth is nicely ‘orrid; and the children actors are as good as could be expected (I have few expectations with children actors – mostly they make one long for the day when directors can cast credible AI instead).
Yes, I enjoyed it. It was long for what it was at two hours but then again I wasn’t accompanied by small-bladdered snot-balls full of too much Christmas sugar so that wasn’t an issue.
All in all, if you enjoyed the original then go and be reasonably content that they have not utterly screwed the Poppins’ franchise.
But, and you heard it here first, if anyone makes Sound of Music Two (the Digital Years) then I for one am staying in.