Like Emily Blunt’s magical nanny, “Mary Poppins Returns” is disappearing again, this time from theaters.
Rob Marshall’s original musical has transitioned to the eternal world of home viewing (available on digital platforms now, Blu-ray on Tuesday). But less certain is where it will land in movie history.
Will Blunt’s portrayal stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Julie Andrews’ performance in 1964’s classic “Mary Poppins”?
Somewhere along the way during the film’s theatrical release and the politically charged awards season that followed, “Mary Poppins Returns” lost some of its luster, going home empty-handed on Oscar night.
“Momentum ebbs and flows with movies. But ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is a huge and gutsy undertaking and enormously successful follow-up,” says Ben Mankiewicz, film historian and host of Turner Classic Movies. “It’s an incredible task to make a movie nostalgic and new at the same time, which they did. … They’re bold, knowing that the first conversation people would have afterward is, ‘I really like it but it’s not as good as the original’ – which happens to be one of the classic musicals of all time.””Mary Poppins Returns” had all goodness going into its release with the musical pedigree of Marshall, the most exquisitely suited modern Mary Poppins in Blunt and the hottest musical talent in “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda as lamplighter Jack.
Marshall shot the $130 million project over eight months on eight elaborate soundstages and some of the most iconic locations in London (Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace), and recruited Dick Van Dyke to reprise his role as Mr. Dawes, who danced on a desk at age 91.
Critics reviewed “Mary Poppins Returns” positively (though not with the universal acclaim of the original), giving it a 79% “fresh” rating on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. The National Board of Review and the American Film Institute placed the movie on their top 10 list for the year, important historical markers. Audiences embraced the family musical, not overwhelmingly, with a healthy $347 million worldwide box-office haul.