My disdain for reboots means that, out of the gate I’m not inclined to have much anticipation for Mary Poppins Returns. Factor in that it’s a musical fantasy for and about children, and there is even less to attract me. It’s just not my cup of tea, Earl Grey (hot) or otherwise.
I have a sister, younger by a few years, so the original Mary Poppins, with Julie Andrews, was an annual fixture in our house. Along with The Wizard of Oz and that excruciating Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer claymation. I was already a hard-core science fiction fan by then; these family-friendly fantasies bored me silly even as a kid.
I think even then I was just too aware of the implicit psychopathy behind it all.
So I cracked up when I happened to read Jessica Mason’s article, We Need to Admit That Mary Poppins Is a Sociopath, in The Mary Sue. The author is by no means the first to point out that Mary Poppins is “a manipulative, lying, gaslighting jerk,” but she may be one of the more entertaining and thorough.
For example, she points out that the actual hero of the piece is Bert, the chimney sweep (Dick Van Dyke as the most unconvincing Cockney ever). Mary herself isn’t someone any adult would want around themselves, let alone their children.
Mason also suggests it was Julie Andrews amazing ability to sell the sweet nanny character that prevents us from fully recognizing what an awful “person” Mary Poppins actually is. Certainly the role became iconic for the actress. (She had as much success shedding it as Leonard Nimoy did Spock.)
On the plus side, Andrews’ singing and the sheer exuberance of the film are the heart, the charm, and the reason it delights so many. If you don’t think about the plot too much, the movie is just plain fun.
A problem for the reboot may be that Emily Blunt doesn’t have that Andrews charm power. As Mason writes:
“The problem with Mary Poppins Returns as a movie is that it attempts to ape the original in all the wrong ways, while adding some of the worst Disney tropes. (A dead mother! A useless love story! A powerful man saves everyone!) It’s nearly a beat-by-beat retread of the 1964 film’s structure, down to a disaster at a bank followed by a dance number from charming working fellows of a bygone era.
“Mary Poppins herself is still haughty and almost cruel, but this time, instead of Julie Andrews’ soprano charms elevating her to a mischievous diva, we’re left with Blunt singing alto, trying to bring life to a character who might not even be human and has no clear personality beyond her own smug practical perfection.”
(It seems almost self-evident that, issues of character psychopathy aside, Julie Andrews is a power-house singer, which fact it seems a reboot ought to hold foremost in its mind.)
Given that I never cared for the original, I can’t see any reason to bother with a reboot, especially when it’s pretty clearly a money-grab, not a labor of love.
There is also that the original is stained by the rift between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers, who wrote the Mary Poppins book series. This is touched on in the film Saving Mr. Banks, with Emma Thompson as Travers (and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney).
Bottom line, charm and singing aside, I’ve never been onboard with the original Mary Poppins movie, and I can’t imagine any reason to watch the reboot (which likely lacks both the singing and the charm).
OTOH, this is almost entirely a subjective opinion. Objectively speaking, I’m pretty neutral on both the original and the reboot (albeit with a dash of disdain for any reboot).
I do think it’s fun that I’m not the only one who sees the psychopathy, though. Here’s an Honest Trailer take on the original from Screen Junkies:
And here’s the Cinema Sins take on it (the sin total is under 100, which I believe means they either liked it or didn’t hate it):
I have long wondered how much modern film-making, with its incredibly high level of realism, changes the storytelling equation, but that’s a post for another day.
For now, I just got a big kick out of Jessica Mason’s article and thought I’d share it along with the related video bits. It kinda fits in with the Women in 2018 theme I’m following these last few posts.
(Once again, it’s weird how when I write something I think is going to get a lot of flack,… those turn out to be the most ignored posts of all.)
I’ll leave you with a last bit of fun, a terror trailer for Mary Poppins:
These can be a lot of fun. There’s a YouTube channel that does a lot of them (Cinefix, I think). Way back in 2012, I posted about another gem I found quite some time ago, a terror trailer version of 2001.
Stay poppin’, my friends!