Dick Van Dyke looks exactly the same in the “Mary Poppins Returns” trailer as he did in the original film.
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 March 19). 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.
Where “Mary Poppins Returns” went awry was the long haul of awards season. After four Golden Globe nominations, including for best comedy or musical, and nine Critics Choice nominations, the musical slowed to respected Oscar race also-ran with four nominations (costume design, score, song and production design) and no wins. By comparison, the original movie dominated in 1965, pulling in 13 Oscar nominations and winning five, including best actress for Andrews.
“By the time it got to Oscar nominations this year, it was clear this movie was not going to be the contender so many people thought it would be,” says Pete Hammond, awards columnist for Deadline.com. As momentum and award wins built for films like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Disney musical faded.
Marshall says he prefers to see the positive of even pulling off the nominations in a far less-innocent era dominated by lethal, often negative social media.
“It’s such a different time from when musicals like ‘My Fair Lady,’ ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Mary Poppins’ came out. I actually see it from the other side, I’m thrilled with what we have achieved. We’re not in fashion in that way,” says Marshall. “I sort of walked away from the season going, ‘Wow, we were part of the discussion.’ ”
He says he’s proud of the final run and for the achievement.
“I’m even more aware now how unique we are. It’s so rare that a film comes out that lacks any kind of cynicism in this day and age,” he says.
As far as how film history will remember “Mary Poppins Returns,” Marshall is going to leave that to the world. “I have my own perception of it. That’s for me to hold onto myself,” he says. “But so many people have said to me, ‘This is a movie you want to revisit over and over again.’ That’s what I consider a classic.”
Time and the repeat viewings will ultimately decide. Mankiewicz imagines a future with a “Mary Poppins” double feature.
“Fifty years from now, 2069, I’ll still be hosting, I’ll be sitting down,” says Mankiewicz. “We’ll play the 1964 ‘Mary Poppins’ and 2018 ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ side-by-side. That will be a pretty good night on Turner Classic Movies.”
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