Underneath the new Mary Poppins sky

Pablo A. Tariman - The Philippine Star
Underneath the new Mary Poppins sky
A scene from the movie: Magical with nothing to fear from original version

Film review: Mary Poppins Returns

MANILA, Philippines — One must admit one went to watch Mary Poppins Returns partly out of nostalgia and partly out of curiosity as to how the new millennial version will turn out.

The first version caught one in the middle ‘60s when one was still in high school and happened to be in the big city because of death in the family.

One couldn’t recall exactly what instantly drew me to the movie.

Was it the music, was it the voice of Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) and the magic of her bottomless bag or was it the story of a typical London family coping with difficult times?

The fact that one ended up humming some of the songs was a clue that I did like the movie which would soon become a classic like Sound of Music which was also a Julie Andrews-starrer.

In the person of Emily Blunt, the new Mary Poppins had an appeal that is quite easy on the psyche. One noticed she is tall and willowy and indeed lovely which calls to mind Gemma Cruz Araneta (yes, the country’s first Miss International who happens to be the grand niece of Jose Rizal) at her prime.

When the film opened with (Underneath the) Lovely London Sky sung by the lamplighter played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, you knew you’d like the movie and what it has in store for the old and young alike. The voice sounds fresh but, of course, you get the hint his opening song is just a preview of what the new version is all about. It is set 20 years after Mary Poppins left the Banks family and the kid (Michael Banks) in the first version is now a widowed father (Ben Whishaw) of three and coping with a bank repossession problem.

And so here comes Mary Poppins in the person of Blunt coming to the rescue and playing surrogate mother to the three kids.

Truth to tell, Blunt has her own individual appeal that doesn’t even try to copy the original character. The Poppins of Blunt is refreshingly original and she connects with the kids in a natural, spontaneous way.

Of course, there is nothing like the original but the new Poppins has nothing to fear from the 1964 musical.

The kids (the precocious twins Annabel and John — Piexie Davis and Nathanael Saleh — and Georgie — Joel Dawson) were just as lovable and midway through the musical, you get the timeless lesson on the importance of family and being optimistic in the face of seemingly insurmountable family crisis.

In the song and dance numbers, you get a rare treat of Meryl Streep doing the spritely song number Turning Turtle with Blunt and Lin-Miranda.

On the whole, the songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman didn’t disappoint. You take it that, of course, film sequels always carry the burden of being compared to the original.

The script of David Magee kept the sugar-and-spice flavor of the first version and the direction of Rob Marshall glued story and music together without looking like it was hued to the first version.

Until you hear snatches of music from the original film at the end, you will have no idea this film took off from the first version.

As it is, the film brought back nostalgia for the old film in the poignant song number Where Lost Things Go — part of which goes:

Do you ever lie

Awake at night

Just between the dark

And the morning light

Searching for the things

You used to know

Looking for the place

Where the lost things go

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