Comparisons can be odious, but this latest Hollywood release is just begging for it.
Mary Poppins Returns hit the cinemas around Australia on New Year’s Day, recalling the iconic 1964 original starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.
The directors have attempted to recreate a similar feel to the movie as the original, borrowing themes and even devising parallel scenes, although they have not captured the warmth and charm of the original.
The song-and-dance numbers are reminiscent of an old-time stage musical.
Emily Blunt in the lead role, and formerly known for some action-woman roles, does a pretty impressive job with the new songs; and her friend, instead of being a chimney sweep, is Lin-Manuel Miranda playing a street gas-lighter.
The plot unfolds in good old Cherry Tree Lane with the grim and sometimes forbidding pre-war London skyline.
The pompous and pretentious Mary Poppins arrives by kite, instead of umbrella, and this time the family is facing the ominous threat of foreclosure on their house by a bank.
The parallels are blindingly obvious: it’s balloons instead of kite flying, a visit to a delightful ‘‘Topsy Turvey’’ Meryl Streep instead of the laughing uncle, and a parade of gas lighters instead of chimney sweeps.
There are a few cameos, including Dick Van Dyke, but surprisingly few in view of the sequel nature of this one, and Meryl Streep acquits herself with classic style in a singing role.
This film must set a record for a sequel — 54 years after the original — and there has already been a film based around the making of the original, recording how the story’s writer, P. L. Travers, initially resisted attempts to have it converted to the screen.
It’s also a little known fact that the woman who played the bag lady on the steps of St Paul’s Church (Feed the Birds), Jane Darwell, also needed encouragement to take the role, and died about three years after the film was released.
But sequels have a big challenge when trying to fill the boots of a story that has become so well loved.
The sequel is a likeable enough movie; entertaining, with a few bright spots, but judging by the reaction of the 60-odd audience at Shepparton’s Village Cinemas at the first screening, not one that’s going to bring down the house.
We had a few spots of laughter and recognition.
Should be a hit with anyone who saw the original and enjoys a bit of nostalgia, but Mary Poppins version 1, it’s not.
Geoff Adams is the editor of Country News.