Mary Poppins says something very wise in the delightful film bearing her name:
“Enough is as good as a feast.”
So, enough already.
Yesterday, news broke that Disney wants to make another Mary Poppins movie set 20 years later focusing on Poppins and the Banks family directed by noted and Oscar-winning director Rob Marshall.
I truly have so many horrible things to say about this idea I legitimately don’t know where to begin, so rather than start with the original and work our way forwards, I guess let’s start with present-day and work our way backwards.
First, let me explain that Rob Marshall is genuinely terrible at directing musicals. He won the Best Director for the film Chicago in 2002, a film that was neither the best movie of that year, nor a very good musical. You see, the thing that makes Chicago the musical great besides the fun noir plot and the juicy character-driven songs is the dancing. This is the master Bob Fosse at his finest in the original rendition of this musical. So what does Marshall do in the film? Cast a bunch of actresses who can’t, pardon my French, fucking dance. So, while I am expecting to see a Fosse-esque showstopper, instead I get a quick cut to a hand and then a leg and then some glitter because Renee Zellwegger cannot dance her way out of a paper bag. I know this, as I have watched her “dancing” at the end of Empire Records about 75 times. Catherine Zeta-Jones fares a little better, but the slapdash editing makes it overtly apparent the cast can’t, by and large, dance, which is one-third of a good musical.
Then Marshall butchered Into the Woods last year, with a woefully reconstructed second act, a complete and utter absence of choreography, and a completely forgettable film version of some of Stephen Sondheim’s best work.
If you are going to hire a musical director, hire Adam Shankman, as there is no other musical director working today (except perhaps Justin Lin) who understands that creativity and choreography and making that choreography cinematic is how to make scenes like the absolute perfection that is Dick Van Dyke dancing with cartoon penguins:
But here is where things get meta in a completely depressing sort of way. While Rob Marshall was off ruining one of the finest stage musicals of the last 20 years, Walt Disney studios made a movie about how the author of the Mary Poppins books couldn’t stand the movie precisely because she didn’t want her creation to be having a jolly holiday with cartoon characters on a merry-go-round. This interesting, though white-washed commentary about the kinds of compromises that take place when creativity meets commerce asked audiences to spend their money and time really looking into the idea that Mary Poppins may not have been worth the turmoil it caused the author.
Then, NOT ONE YEAR LATER, the very same studio says, “yes, we understand that PL Travers did hate the adaptation of Mary Poppins so much because it veered too far from the book, but we have movie history and a different interpretation of a story that many children have really latched on to in the 50-odd years since the movie’s initial release. In fact, she hated what they did to her book so much, she wrote into her will a series of rules about what Disney could and could not do regarding a Poppins stage musical.
And you, Walt Disney Studios, genuinely believe it is worth it to disrespect a dead-woman’s wishes by hiring a hack of a director to helm your money grab of cynicism you call a movie after you make Saving Mr. Banks where you acknowledge, that maybe, just maybe, it is more important to make a film true to its source. And you, Travers estate, better have some sort of story about how all of you have deadly diseases and there is no other way to pay for the treatment of said diseases unless you make more money off this shameless sham of a project.
Who out there saw Saving Mr Banks and drew from this story a conclusion that we need another Mary Poppins movie? Even I, someone who finds Dick Van Dyke (one of Travers’ biggest issues with the movie was his casting) downright perfect feel worse about my love of Mary Poppins. I like to believe just a sliver of Saving Mr Banks was true and the author came around to this film that is near and dear to me. I like to believe Walt Disney made this movie not as a money grab, but because he really did promise his daughters he would.
Now though, to make a film literally no one wanted, that literally no one needs, and to do so right after you made a movie pretending that making money wasn’t the only consideration is the kind of thing that would cause Mary Poppins to float out of the sky, open up her magical carpet bag, take out that talking duck-headed umbrella, then have them sing a duet whilst Mary uses her handy umbrella to beat the tar out of the Disney development team wondering how in the hell they watched the original Mary Poppins and the bank scene and the movie’s finale and didn’t come away with the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, money isn’t always more important than your soul.
Like Poppins said, “Enough is as good as a feast,” and the thought of some ridiculous, sardonic piece of new cinematic garbage tarnishing the heart and soul of a film that, while not beloved by Travers, is still beloved by many is enough to give me an ulcer.