Considering that this is “break week” for Jesus Slang I thought I’d go a little left of this blog’s usual centre and dish out a film review. Having grown up watching Mary Poppins and having enjoyed Saving Mr Banks a few years back, I decided to join my parents on their outing to see Mary Poppins Returns over summer.
It’s actually hard to reflect on this one as an adult and I feel as though I’d really love to know what a child under five (who’d never seen the original) thought of the film, before I make any further comment.
Because it’s having the eyes of a child that’s important. It’s responding like a child to the magic that is key.
And whoever cast Joel Dawson as the youngest Banks child made the right decision. “Georgie” (presumably named after his grandfather) for me was the stand out performance.
Yes, Emily Blunt’s acting was spot on. Yes, Lin-Manuel Miranda had exactly the right mix of Cockney and scruffy-likeableness. For example…
There was even a song educating children about rhyming slang (great!).
But that cute little Banks boy was the key to the movie. Because he was a believer.
He was the one who ‘found’ Mary Poppins through childlike abandonment. He was the one who instantly believed the magic was real, unlike his older siblings who took a little longer to come to the party. He was the one with the wide-eyed looks of wonder and joy.
And he nailed his delivery.
Because, you see, adults don’t believe in magic. This was a clear message in the film. They don’t believe of course, because adults know that there must be science and rationalisation behind everything, right?
“Yes, logic is the rock of our foundation.”
The movie was set in “The Great Slump” of the 1930s but that quote sounds straight out of 2019 Western society to me.
As a Christian, I’m often told that science and spiritual faith are at loggerheads with one another. This is an opinion I don’t actually hold, considering that The Enlightenment and Western society since then have had far too many Christian scientists reconciling the two, day by day in their laboratories.
However, considering that science, logic and rationalisation are frequently set forth as the bedrock of modern Western society, I found it fascinating that Mary Poppins Returns directed as much disdain towards these values as it did.
In my personal opinion, however, the songs weren’t quite up to standard because I couldn’t remember how a single one of them went about five minutes after walking out of the cinema. This was also my mother’s experience and apparently the experience of other reviewers.
Contrast this with The Greatest Showman that I saw twelve months earlier whilst holidaying alone in Adelaide. For both movies in question I sat and watched the credits to the very end; you have to if you’re to read about the soundtrack. So for both movies I’d heard a ‘reprise’ of the key songs. Five minutes after MPR I had nothing. For TGS I spent the two or three blocks walking back to my hotel humming and singing lyrics in my head.
Additionally, whilst I’m in favour of encouraging children to read, The Book is not the cover just didn’t sit quite right with me.
When I was a child under five, my parents had a record player (yes, I really am that old, apparently). When my parents upgraded to a CD player one of the first CDs my mother bought was the original Mary Poppins soundtrack, which included a final track of Sherman and Sherman talking about their compositional process. They mention a song they wrote called Through the Eyes of Love with which they were quite taken.
Julie Andrews was not. She didn’t think it was characteristic of Mary Poppins.
So whether it was her cabaret dress, use of cockney accent or just plain too much happening whilst The Book is not the Cover was being performed, I must confess that my arms were folded. All I could think throughout was ‘It’s Through the Eyes of Love all over again. This just isn’t quite Poppins.’
This is why I want to know what a newcomer (aged five and under) thought of the film.
What was Poppins for them? And did they believe the magic? Because “Of course the grown-ups will all forget by tomorrow.” “They always do.”
A child’s faith is the key teaching point of the movie. Or having childlike faith as demonstrated by Michael Banks, now an adult: “Jane, I remember. It’s all true. Every impossible thing we imagined with Mary Poppins. It all happened!”
So in tune with the movie, this blog encourages faith like a child (pun originally unintended).
Because as Mary Poppins says: “Everything is possible. Even the impossible.”
Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that your faith should spring up out of nothing, just as the result of reading a blog post. Yet again though, we can take a leaf out of Mary Poppins’ book:
“If you don’t believe, just hang on to my sleeve.” Or in other words: keep coming back.
And perhaps even what you thought was just the “stuff and nonsense” of childhood stories might actually turn out to all be true.
Yours in returning,