What critics had to say about ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

Read what the reviews (good and bad) say about the return of a classic Disney character.

Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins in "Mary Poppins Returns." –Jay Maidment/Disney via AP

Does “Mary Poppins Returns” live up to the 1964 original? That’s perhaps the most important question people will ask when considering seeing Disney’s latest attempt at reviving a classic film from its vault.

With recent live-action versions of “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” and “Beauty and the Beast” all performing well both with critics and at the box office, plus upcoming revamps of “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Dumbo,” “Pinocchio,” and “The Little Mermaid,” Disney has clearly committed ample resources to its revival efforts.

And early signs look generally optimistic for “Mary Poppins Returns.” Box office projections expect it to earn $55 million during its first week, with a strong continued performance into 2019, and the film had a 78 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this article’s publication.

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That said, a single number can’t adequately capture the range of critical response, and many of the reviews coded as “fresh” or “rotten” by the critic aggregation site have a bit more nuance. To help you judge whether to rush to theaters, here’s what some of the top film critics are saying, both good and bad, about “Mary Poppins Returns.”

The Good

Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press couldn’t contain her enthusiasm about Blunt’s performance to one paragraph, expounding for 100-odd words about the star’s ability to sing, dance, and make an audience laugh with a single glance.

It’s sweet news indeed that “Mary Poppins Returns,” a sequel 54 years in coming, provides just that spoonful of happiness in the form of Emily Blunt, practically perfect in every way as the heir to Julie Andrews. “Spit spot!” ″Pish Posh!” ″Jigetty Jog!” (Did we spell that right?) These Poppins-isms slip effortlessly off Blunt’s tongue. It’s also no simple feat to gaze at one’s reflection and say “practically perfect in every way” and not seem egotistical, but Blunt’s easy warmth and charm shine through.


Anthony Lane of The New Yorker also praised Blunt’s portrayal of Mary Poppins, comparing it to Julie Andrews’ performance of more than 50 years ago.

So what’s different, with Emily Blunt in charge? A spoonful less sugar, I reckon, and a pinch more spice. A fraction of the lung power, as expected, though the accent is a touch posher, which makes you wonder what noble company Mary’s been keeping in the intervening years. An extra shade of slyness, too, is detectable in her sidelong glance, and in the curve of her smile, as though there were secrets neatly folded and tucked away in her carpetbag (which, like its owner, is infinite but bounded), rarely to be revealed.

 

Mara Reinstein of US Weekly said the film will “sing and dance its way into your heart” as long as you let it.

Don’t worry, Mary Poppins is here. And though the stylish British nanny looks different than you may remember, she’s still super-talented at bringing eye-popping wonder and whimsy into the lives of everyone around her. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, in fact. That’s why the best thing you could do for yourself right now is let the fantastical Disney musical Mary Poppins Returns— a sequel 54 years in the making — sing and dance its way into your heart. After all, pure cinematic joy doesn’t come around very often.

 

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman wrote that the children of today who didn’t grow up with the original 1964 film will still enjoy “Mary Poppins Returns,” a testament to the skill of director Rob Marshall.

Of course, many of the children who see “Mary Poppins Returns” will have no knowledge of the original. And it’s a mark of the film’s ingenuity that it will seem enthralling — and, in its way, exotic — to them. It takes panache to make a movie as defiantly corny and stylistically out-of-date as this one and not have it feel stilted, and Marshall has staged “Mary Poppins Returns” with great care and skill; it’s easily the best thing he’s done since “Chicago.”

The So-So

In his two-star review, The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr acknowledged the difficulty of adapting a distinctly Edwardian film like “Mary Poppins” for a modern audience, and concluded that the level of nostalgia-induced satisfaction may vary.

“Mary Poppins Returns” is torn between taking audiences back to their childhoods and treating them like children. You might have a good time but don’t be surprised if you feel a little dociousaliexpeisticfragicalirupus afterward.

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Indiewire’s David Ehrlich gave “Mary Poppins Returns” a C+, suggesting that Marshall’s refusal to update the film for a modern audience is charming, but that children who have grown up with fast-paced modern entertainment will dislike the film.

A generation of kids raised on Minions is about to be bored into submission, and they’ll be all the better for it. And yet, however refreshing the plotlessness and relative purity of “Mary Poppins Returns” might be, there’s a fine line between “nostalgic” and “out of touch” — between revisiting the past and living in denial of the present.

The Ugly

Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times spent most of his review comparing and contrasting “Mary Poppins Returns” with the 1964 original, deciding that the new film’s feverish efforts to mimic its predecessor are its ultimate downfall. 

As it is, so much obvious care has been taken to reproduce and update the charms of the Robert Stevenson-directed original — to deliver an old-fashioned yet newfangled burst of family-friendly uplift — that “Mary Poppins Returns” winds up feeling both hyperactive and paralyzed. It sits there flailing on the screen, bright, gaudy and mirthless, tossing off strained bits of comic business and all but strangling itself with its own good cheer.

 

Michael O’Sullivan of The Washington Post had similar issues with “Mary Poppins Returns,” going through its musical numbers one by one and writing that each is a shallow impersonation of a song from the original film.

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.

 

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June 18, 2019 | 8:55 AM