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Mary Poppins Returns

Lead by a stellar performance from Emily Blunt, this warm hearted, optimistic, energetic sequel to Mary Poppins is very pleasant company even if it falls short of being truly great. 

A sequel to the classic 1964 film Mary Poppins, this film follows the children from the original all grown up with kids of their own. The family house is in trouble of being taken by a bank. Mary Poppins sweeps in on a kite and brings magic to the lives of all involved. 

This film lives under a tremendous shadow. It is an insurmountable task to surpass or break free from the original film. This film does a really good job of standing on its own while paying tribute to the original. That shadow extends to every element of the film, from the story, to the songs, to the performances. The performances are the area that succeeds the most at standing on their own. 

Emily Blunt shines. She is full of magic without any special effects. She has a special look in her eye that intrigues, entices, and lets the audience know something special is about to happen. She matches Julie Andrews original brilliantly while bringing her own flourishes. She was given the impossible task of being exactly the same as Julie Andrews, while making it her own,, while matching the tone of the new movie, while feeling timeless, while also lining up with the character as written in the books. Somehow she walks that tightrope and even does a few flips while on that tightrope. 

Ben Whishaw plays the father Michael Banks. He is heartbreaking on multiple occasions. He has a song that he sings to his deceased wife that brings tears. There is a scene where he is angry with the children and the anger gives way to his true feelings of grief and the camera lingers and lets him unfold the layers of emotions naturally. It is wonderful to see. 

The kids are adorable and capture the heart instantly. Their every line is delivered with enthusiasm and joy and honesty. Lin Manuel Miranda is wonderful. He is just a bundle of enthusiasm. He is a joy to watch. 

There has been a lot said about the songs and how they don’t live up to the originals. That is difficult to say. They are memorable and enjoyable. They aren’t as iconic as Feed the Birds, Let’s Go Fly a Kite, or Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. They are good songs, but they do not match the legendary status of the originals. 

The big problem with the film is the story and the message. The message gets muddled here. There are too many characters and too many excursions with Mary Poppins. We never really settle down and focus on one theme. The movie is about grief and the grieving process. But it’s also about allowing children to be children. But it’s also about believing in magic. The three never really come together. It could be said it’s all about the grief of losing Michaels wife and the children’s mother. However that’s a stretch, and it’s not a stretch that the movie tries to make or clarify. We never spend enough time with any one or any group of characters to get a clear vision of the story. There are two long sequences that contribute nothing to theme or story. Meryl Streep shows up in a prolonged musical number that never comes back or makes a contribution to the story. There is a big long animated chase sequence that kind of contributes plot wise, but not really. It’s just a source of tonal dissonance and distraction that doesn’t need to be in the movie. 

In the end though the film is a big bundle of good feelings. The final number lifts the spirits. The movie as a whole is a joyful ride to take. It is an enjoyable movie that is worth seeing. For that overwhelming positive feeling, it’s going to get an A-. It’s definitely my cup of tea.

Glass

This is a film that makes big promises and is completely unable to execute on any of those promises. It is helped by James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson, but it is totally misguided. The film is too long, too dull, and too self serious. 

The film is trying to be a sequel to two films that never should have been connected. Unbreakable was released 2000. It was a family drama about David Dunn a man who survives a devastating train crash without a scratch. The mysterious Elijah Price enters David’s life and tries to convince him he is a super hero. It is a fantastic movie. It is definitely worth watching. It is full of tension and fascinating character development. The other film is Split. Released in 2016, Split is a “bottle movie” (a film in which all the action takes place in a single or small number of locations) about a trio of girls kidnapped by a man with multiple personalities. It is an enjoyable and mostly satisfying film. It creates good tension with its premise and James McAvoy is spectacular. 

In this film, Jams McAvoy is again spectacular. He is riveting. He is fun. He is energetic. Samuel L Jackson is bringing a real performance to a film that doesn’t deserve it. Bruce Willis… What to say about Bruce Willis? 

It is impossible to guess an actor’s motives and feelings in a performance. It is too often bandied about that an actor doesn’t seem to care, or that they are phoning it in. The problem is that the audience doesn’t have an insight into the actor’s method or what they believe is influencing the character. Maybe Willis sees David as being closed off and shut down because of the things he’s seen. Maybe Willis is playing David as someone who is just that cool under pressure. These are possibilities, and it is always preferable to give the actor the benefit of the doubt. 

However, this film contains scenes from Unbreakable. When looking at Willis acting side by side, he is clearly brining a fraction of the emotion and internal life to this movie. His earlier work is resonant. His eyes tell a sweeping emotional story. He is bringing a lot to the role. In the current film, his eyes have a glazed over look. His delivery is monotone. Maybe there’s a reason for it, but it looks an awful lot like phoning it in.

Glass tries to combine these two and fails. It takes the superhero elements of Unbreakable and grafts them over Split. It takes the ponderous fake psychology os Split (the worst part of the movie) and slaps it right in the middle of the movie. 

The true binding element between these two is the through line. Unbreakable is about a man trying to prove that a superhero can exist. At the end of the film, the question is answered. Split is about a man trying to prove that he does indeed have supernatural abilities. In the end he proves he does indeed have supernatural powers. This film back pedals on that and tries to reprove that super heroes exist and reprove that this guy does have supernatural powers. It just rehashes the stories along with the worst elements of both films. It’s long and ponderous and a real drag.

In conclusion Not a good movie. Avoid it if possible. Letter Grade – C Not My Cup of Tea