If you and your loved ones are still debating whether or not it’s time to return to theaters and leave the safety zone where you’ve been harbored for the past year, might I suggest starting with the simplest of creature comforts? Emphasis on the “creature”.
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.
We live in a society where a movie can rake in twenty-nine million dollars on its opening weekend in American theaters and still be declared an immediate failure. The new Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow was expensively constructed even by summer blockbuster standards, but it was bumped back to third place this past weekend by both the young-adult juggernaut that is The Fault in Our Stars and the ongoing smash Maleficent. Audiences are sticking to their standard demographic preferences and don’t much care that Tomorrow has the highest Tomatometer rating of the three.
The over-50 action/sci-fi veteran meets his match (or better!) in Emily Blunt, last seen being overlooked in Looper, but their pairing plus alien warfare weren’t enough of a draw in a slightly crowded field in theaters. I’m not feeling drawn to Disney’s Angelina Jolie Fairy Tale Masquerade, but when I was faced with choosing between the other two on Tuesday night, I decided to give the pricy-looking underdog some attention. (To be honest, I think I’d rather read the novel first before seeing Stars.)
The short, spoiler-free version of my impression of Looper: the film is a knotty but ingenious cat-and-mouse thriller that moves from urban squalor to rural tranquility with an enviable dexterity while contemplating the effects of poor choices on our lives (our own as well as others’), the things we’ll sacrifice to stay true to our selfish nature, and what we’re willing to sacrifice if we think harder about what’s most important in the grand scheme. Other reviews have already noted the effectiveness of the makeup, the subtlety of the near-future visual designs, and the fun of watching Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing different versions of the same character. Consider those thoughts seconded here, since I can’t think of a good reason to retype them in my own redundant words.
However, I wouldn’t go so far as to grade it A+++++. I recognized more than a few moving parts from other films, albeit parts that are shuffled together skillfully, retooled for improved functionality, and kept as far removed from the trailers as possible.
Before proceeding, I brake here for COURTESY SPOILER ALERT for those who plan to see it but have been too busy or who avoid theaters. Now is your moment to escape for the sake of your future moviegoing experience, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.