A disappointing followup, Mary Poppins Returns follows the now grownup Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) as they attempt to raise an exorbitant amount of money to save the family home – with the pair inevitably receiving help from the mysterious title character (Emily Blunt). There’s little doubt that Mary Poppins Returns fares best in its relatively charming and engaging opening stretch, as filmmaker Rob Marshall does an effective job of cultivating an atmosphere designed to replicate the original picture’s decidedly relaxed and low-key vibe (ie there’s even an extended open-credits sequence) – with the movie certainly benefiting from the stars’ affable work and the impressive detail on the various sets. It does become increasingly clear, however, that Mary Poppins Returns suffers from a palpably bland and generic feel that only grows more and more problematic as time progresses, as the movie’s been suffused with a woefully thin storyline that’s compounded by an assortment of forgettable, unmemorable musical numbers (ie one is unlikely to walk out of the film humming any of the many songs) – with, as a result, the narrative ungainly lurching from one tedious set-piece to the next with little thought to momentum or forward motion (ie there ultimately just doesn’t seem to be much connective tissue here). A late-in-the-game appearance by Dick Van Dyke temporarily injects the proceedings with some much needed energy and electricity, but Mary Poppins Returns is otherwise (and mostly) a dour, meandering misfire that doesn’t bear much in common with its superior predecessor.
** out of ****