Sunday, February 10, 2019

mary, mary

In December, with a house full of out-of-town guests, Mrs. Pincus and I were unable to fulfill our Christmas tradition of going to the movies followed by a dinner of Chinese food. We did, however, make it down to our son's house to feed his cat while he and his girlfriend celebrated the holiday with her family. But, alas, we missed our chance to see the highly-touted and highly-anticipated sequel to Walt Disney's 1964 Oscar-winning film Mary Poppins.

Until last night.

Nearly two months after its release, and with most of the excitement passed, my wife and I ventured out on a weeknight to see the film. We were enticed by an offer of five dollar admission — something we just couldn't turn down. When we arrived at the theater, it seemed that a lot of folks are not swayed by admission prices knocked down to below half off. The place was empty. That's not a compliant. Actually, that's a preference.

In 1964, my Aunt Clara took me to my first movie in a theater... and that movie was Mary Poppins. I loved it. It was bright and colorful, filled with cheerful songs and funny characters. Although I  was 3 years old, I actually remember standing up in my seat and clapping. In subsequent years, I watched Mary Poppins on television and later on a video tape that I purchased. I knew every scene and every song. My wife and I watched it with our son, who came to love it as much as we loved it. It was a bonafide, multi-generational family favorite.

So, when I first heard about the proposal of a sequel to Mary Poppins, I was very, very skeptical. Over fifty years had passed since the beloved original film. Many of the original cast members were too old to reprise their roles. Others were retired from acting while others were deceased. Of course, the new film would be recast. A new story would have to be written. And, with one of the celebrated Sherman brothers — the original's prolific composers — gone, recreating those infectious tunes would be a tall order.

When our opportunity to see Mary Poppins Returns at Christmas did not arise, I wasn't really that disappointed. I really didn't want to see it. I feared that it would tarnish the sparkling memories of the stellar original. But, when a five dollar admission to the movies presents itself, you don't think twice.

At the theater, Mrs. P and I sat through a number of trailers for forgettable films we decided we have no intention of seeing... not even when they are available on Netflix. Then the sparsely-occupied auditorium darkened and the familiar Disney Studio "castle" insignia filled the giant screen. 

I am happy to report that Mrs. P and I were held spellbound for the next 130 minutes. I wanted to dislike Mary Poppins Returns. I really did. But I couldn't. It was irresistible. It was a love letter to the original, loaded with nods and winks and subtle references. It was perfectly cast with the unflappable Emily Blunt capably filling the poised shoes of Oscar winner Dame Julie Andrews. Fresh from Broadway and settling nicely into his role as cheeky "Jack the Lamp Lighter" was the positively magical Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose put-on British accent wasn't nearly as distracting as Dick Van Dyke's attempt 54 years earlier. The supporting cast was spit-spot on. The sets were beautiful. The direction was snappy. The choreography was inspired (well, inspired by the original). The songs were jubilant when they had to be and sad when that was a requirement. Even the animation sequences were artistic homages to the style and characters of a Disney that wasn't out to sell you a time-share.

I seem to be gushing and you seem to waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sorry to disappoint, but not this time. I genuinely loved this movie. No snide remarks. No sarcastic asides.

No spoonful of sugar needed.

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