Way back in the day, the very first movie I ever saw, sitting in wonder at the drive in as a young child, was Mary Poppins, so there's little surprise that I'd be excited to see this movie, as excited with my gray hair tucked behind my ear as I was back then with my chestnut curls bound into high ponytails on either side of my head.
The movie "worked". I suppose that doesn't sound like high praise. There were things I didn't like about the movie: some of the songs and musical numbers just felt gratuitous, as if they were just there to parallel the previous songs in some way, and the story itself just felt too thin. We don't get to know the characters really well. Michael is not quite rounded out, all we know of him is his grief at the loss of his wife, Jane we know nothing about at all, except she isn't married, or so we can assume because there is a love story hinted at around the edges of the film.
And while I found the film shallow and formulaic, I also found it extremely pleasant to watch. Not only were the musical numbers comfortable and well animated and choreographed, but they all had nods to the previous musical numbers from the original film. At one point, we're even treated to the penguins we saw dancing with Julie Andrews and Dick VanDyke's characters all those years ago. But even more so, it had the feel of a movie that the actors and actresses, many of them major stars, were just enjoying themselves filming it. Big names... Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emily Blunt, Angela Lansbury... and of course Dick VanDyke, they gave it that same "we're big stars just having fun feel" that I attribute to movies like Mama Mia and Into The Woods.
Disney was wise to add less obvious nods to the original series for the young who've streamed the original movies recently, and the old who remember from their childhood, and although I was the only audience member to applaud when Dick Van Dyke showed up on screen, I'm sure some people at least noticed. I'm not sure how many people noticed how, at certain points during the film, the subtle background music switched to scores from the original movie, highlighting the similarities between the pressures George Banks faced in the original story, to the pressure Micheal Banks faced in the new tale.
Some things to watch for:
Disney did a nice job with some of the continuity in the story: Note the tail on the kite is Winifred Banks' sash from the suffragette marches. The one thing that bothered me was Micheal's tuppence. While Micheal does give the tuppence to his father after escaping the bank in an attempt to fix things, I have a hard time thinking that George Banks, on the edge of an epiphany about his parenting, would have taken the change back to the bank and opened an account. I'm even more skeptical that it would have earned sufficient interest to pay off the house loan a mere two decades later. I'd like to think that after kite flying, George took his young son to feed the birds. It was the one major hole in the story, and totally unnecessary when we know the "missing piece" in the story was in one of the character's pockets all the time... and NEVER seen again in the film.
Did I love the movie? Absolutely. Would I see it again? Probably not. The point for me was reliving that moment of childhood. Done. With the freshness gone, it probably wouldn't be the same for me.