Anne and I haven’t watched the original Mary Poppins in 35-40 years. We had considered revisiting it before lining up for director Rob Marshall’s showy happy sequel, but all the legal streaming services wanted twelve bucks or more for one (1) showing of one (1) 54-year-old film. We moved on without it.
I remember very little of the plot, but the songs have haunted me ever since. Credit goes mostly to the legendary songwriting team of Robert and Richard Sherman, and partly to my grade-school music teacher Mrs. Quebbeman, later Mrs. Surdi when she remarried. She taught us songs we never wanted to know (“Up with People”), didn’t notice when a few of us discovered the new fad called “lip-syncing” in sixth grade, assigned me solos in three consecutive Christmas programs while I still had a stable singing voice, and blessedly introduced us to the wonders of wooden percussion, “The Rainbow Connection”, “Danse Macabre”, and at least half the Mary Poppins soundtrack. For me the film may have faded, but the tunes remain etched into my brain. Long after all the useful parts have shut down, I’ll be in my bed humming the chorus from “Step in Time” till the end of days.
Sadly, Mrs. Surdi passed away about a month ago. She was firmly in my thoughts as Mary Poppins Returns played on. Thanks to her, I knew ahead of time there’s no way I’d like the sequel more than the original. But sometimes it’s nice to sit back, be patient, listen closely, and wait to be surprised at what sticks.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the original Wreck-It Ralph. Not only did John C. Reilly’s layered performance hit me squarely in the heart with that big act of would-be noble sacrifice in the climax, but it later inspired me to write a jokey Top Ten-style follow-up that remains one of the site’s most enduring “evergreen” entries to this day. 2012 was a fun year for me in a lot of ways, and it tickles me to remember that Ralph was no small part of that.
Alas, with great success comes the threat of sequels. Disney Animation hasn’t released a theatrical sequel since Fantasia 2000 graced IMAX screens 18 years ago. Someone up high decided it was time to break the streak with Ralph Breaks the Internet, which, to be fair, tops very nearly every direct-to-video Disney sequel ever. I would have to see Aladdin and the King of Thieves again to decide between the two. That’s faint praise, though. Even as I dwell on the phrase “direct-to-video Disney”, memories of Dan Castellaneta’s Genie, Princess Ariel’s daughter, and The Fox and the Hound 2 return and make me wince.
Writer/director Brad Bird’s 2004 The Incredibles remains one of my all-time favorite Pixar films, and not just because it was about superheroes. I could relate to a film about an aging guy who considers himself talented but thinks he should be doing something better with his life, but whose family had much more important concerns than his, and everyone has to dive deep into their conflicts but come out all the stronger for it as a unit. And a film where there are spectacular chase scenes. And just so happens to draw on seventy years of mainstream super-hero culture.
Fourteen years later Incredibles 2 brings back Bird and the family to pick up where they left off. But are the viewers in the same place fourteen years later?
A word of advice from someone who’s been there to other empathetic souls out there: do not go see Pixar’s new grade-A adventure fantasy Coco immediately after attending services for a dearly departed family member. Some unmanageable side effects may occur.