Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

can you ever forgive me

Peas in a pod: Fox Searchlight/Archer Gray

I’ve gone back to taking notes for this one with pen and paper – it seemed more…writerly. I have never used a typewriter. Marielle Heller’s CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? deftly tells a story that’s so bizarre it could only be true, with characters so unlikeable they’re strangely compelling.

Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) may be a published author, but her books aren’t selling and her publisher won’t pay her for writing any more unsexy, niche biographies. Lee’s abrasive personality and dislike of self-promotion turns people off personally and professionally, until fellow human-hating functioning alcoholic Jack Hock (Richard E Grant) befriends Lee, and Lee comes up with a lucrative scheme that’ll stick it to the snobbish writing establishment.

As entertaining as the escalating con job portion of the plot is, really this is a love story, a love story between two loners who need friendship, whether they want it or not (one does not). Lee and Jack are platonic soulmates, well, unless Lee’s cat is around. Lee is almost impossible to like, but easy enough to understand. She just doesn’t get people and doesn’t want to get people. As she herself states, she prefers cats, fittingly an animal that will generally leave you to it.

I’d say the film ends up being pro-writers and very anti-publishing. Lee may not be at all willing to help herself, living in an apartment littered with cat turds so old they’re practically fossilised, and drinking herself into a stupor daily, but her industry won’t cut her any slack either. Without said slack being given or financial security on her horizon, her creative well runs dry and she ends up either not writing at all or writing something that will never sell.

Much like politics, publishing is a culture of personality and self-promotion, and if you’re an author without the former and unwilling to do the latter then you won’t get far. The film is very unkind to Tom Clancy, but he was undeniably the best of the best at preserving a brand.

Lee is driven to do what she does, to forge correspondence in the guise of more famous writers out of sheer desperation, but like all good stories of amorality she soon becomes addicted to her wrongdoing, to getting her own work out there to be read by any means necessary. “I was a better Dorothy Parker than Dorothy Parker”. Israel clearly had a talent, to convincingly inhabit the voices of others. A great visual for this is seeing her row of vintage typewriters, all labelled with the “characters” she is to play. A laugh-out-loud coda to the film states that Israel’s letters as Noel Coward were published in a Noel Coward biography, a screw-up I’m sure pleased the real Israel greatly.

You don’t often find yourself thinking, “that cat’s a really good actor”, but here it’s true – Lee’s cat is biggest feline scene-stealer since that one Oscar Isaac had to carry around for much of LLEWYN DAVIS. McCarthy is my pick for Best Actress this year (she won’t win) because her performance as Lee is the most subtle and nuanced thing she’s ever done. Grant probably has a better chance in the Supporting Actor category as a “it’s about time” award. Yes, they both go through the classic Oscar-baity deglamorisation, but they’re such interesting, contradictory and hilarious figures and their every scene together is such gold that you don’t really mind.

This should have been nominated for Best Picture as well, but the Academy generally dislikes rewarding stories about terrible people outside the acting categories (see also THERE WILL BE BLOOD and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET). There’s a pleasing irony to the fact that the film that’ll introduce the vast majority of audiences to Lee Israel’s story and life’s work hasn’t quite got the recognition it deserves. SSP

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Review in Brief: Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

After the sickly style and horrible humanity of NIGHTCRAWLER, I thought Dan Gilroy partnered with Jake Gyllenhaal could do no wrong. And yet, VELVET BUZZSAW turns out to be a load of pretentious cobblers. Art critics can be empty and overcompensating and up themselves, you don’t say? The film apes the work of Nicolas Winding Refn and Darren Aronofski without the punk aesthetic of the former or the new age emotionality of the latter. They also throw in a bit of THE RING at the end as well seemingly just to have something happen. The only amusing bit is Gyllenhaal casting shade on the colour of a fellow art critic’s coffin. The only memorable line is Rene Russo’s “We don’t sell durable goods, we peddle perception”, which sounds good but may not actually mean anything. It’s got a bit of style, but the horror elements aren’t disturbing, the mystery isn’t interesting and it’s just not worth your time in general. SSP

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Review: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)


Flight Fantastic: DreamWorks Animation/Mad Hatter Entertainment

“There used to be dragons here when I was a boy”. I love the original HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. The sequel was even better. THE HIDDEN WORLD had a lot to live up to, not least getting us to the moment when that iconic closing statement is made. Does it deliver? Almost.

Young dragon- rider Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has been chieftain of his Viking tribe for a year, transforming the village of Berk into a paradise for his people and their dragons. But when a new threat emerges, it becomes clear that dragons will never be safe among humans and the search for the Hidden World where dragonkind came from begins.

Hiccup has remained a relatable and grounded unlikely hero to build the series around, brilliant and good-hearted but with many doubts and a physical disability to navigate. He becomes a man in the third and final part of his story through making some of the most difficult choices imaginable. I was reminded of that great line from Marlon Brando in SUPERMAN, “The son becomes the father and the father becomes the son” as, affectingly, Hiccup has to become more than a friend but also a surrogate parent to Toothless as his scaly companion belatedly enters adolescence. Toothless has severe arrested development from being supposedly the last of his species and living with humans for so long, and when his potential mate appears without warning he has no way of knowing how dragons are supposed to navigate this part of their lives. Copying a gawky teenager miming what he thinks a dragon courtship dance might look like probably isn’t the best way to impress.

It’s great that all the supporting players are given an important role in the story, not to mention everyone having cool bespoke dragon scale armour now. This also helps reinforce the bond between the dragons and their riders, that they are becoming one and the same. Astrid (America Ferrera) and Tuffnut’s (Justin Rupple doing a TJ Miller impression) parts in particular are boosted, with Astrid becoming Hiccup’s no-nonsense rock and Tuffnut providing most of the light relief. New foe Grimmel (F Murray Abraham, sprightly-sounding for a man of 80) represents all of humanity’s worst traits – cruelty, greed, pettiness and intolerance – and tests all of our heroes to their limit.

The action is spectacular and makes me wish this is the kind of fantasy creature spectacle we’d get in the FANTASTIC BEASTS sequels. From the tense peril of the baddie’s enslaved, acid-spewing nightmares chasing our heroes up a burning tower to the more serene but no less eye-popping flight through the subterranean bioluminescent caverns where the wild dragons dwell, all the money and imagination is certainly put up there on screen. I did admittedly miss John Powell’s more Celtic-influenced score from the previous movies to accompany the visuals; his latest effort is more a generic fantasy blockbuster sort of affair.

Last time we were asked to question whether you could ever truly tame nature, but this time it is the dragons have to go far away to protect them from us. Whether the collateral damage is caused intentionally by Grimmel and his hunters or accidentally by Hiccup and the Vikings of Berk, we really don’t come out of this well as a species. We have ruined the dragons’ world and any realistic chance of them living in harmony with us for many lifetimes.

The Hidden World is a well-conceived, visually dazzling final chapter to Hiccup and Toothless’s story with some soaring story beats, but I did still find myself missing the thematic depth and the darkness of the last instalment. It’s very much an EMPIRE STRIKES BACK vs RETURN OF THE JEDI type of situation. Director Dean DeBlois slightly disappointingly ends on a bittersweet (emphasis on the sweet) note rather than a truly tragic one, but he’s probably not as cynical as me. Regardless, this has been one Hel of a ride and I’ll really miss these characters. SSP

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Review in Brief: Polar (2019)

What if JOHN WICK (the movie, not the character) hated you? That’s POLAR. There’s no killer’s code in this tale of hitmen (and women) offing each other and humanity is shown to be pretty much done for on a moral level. You get all the ultraviolet carnage you might expect, but our grizzled protagonist Duncan’s (Mads Mikkelsen) opponents are cartoony to the point of parody. Grief, guilt and horrible torture are handled absolutely straight, but you’ve also got an opening singalong and Mads taking on a gang of assassins in the buff, only assisted by clever camera angles. It’s tonal whiplash that’ll leave you reeling. Then there’s Matt Lucas playing a Bond Villain by way of LITTLE BRITAIN, which is so bizarre a choice I still haven’t decided whether it kills the film or not. It likely depends whether the filmmakers are in on their own jokes. SSP

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Review: Searching (2018)


Serious screentime: Screen Gems/Stage 6 Films

If I hadn’t already written my year end list, this would have shaken things up. SEARCHING is a game-changer, no question. How it was put together on a technical level, the final presentation and the revolutionary ways that information is delivered to us, where our eyes are drawn on the screen(s) and our instincts tricked, it’s all something else. It’s also a good old-fashioned mystery-thriller with a pure emotional wallop.

A widowed father (John Cho) searches for his missing teenage daughter using the technology and social media that has always been part of his family’s daily lives. But as as the mystery of her disappearance deepens at gets national attention, David comes to realise he hasn’t really known Margot (Michelle La) for a long time.

One thing I wouldn’t have expected from a film like this is an opening scene to rival Pixar’s UP for economic, beautifully simple storytelling of feelings. You’re under the film’s spell from the very start, utterly compelled.

The film takes us on a real ride, an agonising maze for audience and protagonist to navigate by way of Apple and Google. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, say twenty minutes before the end when it looks like it’s going to end in a functional but unsatisfying way, our focus is shifted and a plot device that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in narrative film before is deployed to take us to the finish line breathless, shocked and reeling.

It’s a film about unsaid things. Technology gives us so much control over what to say, when and to who – up until the point you press that send button, any impulsive thought can be taken back, no harm done. But there’s little that’s natural about talking by text, email or instant messaging, nothing spontaneous or truly human with that barrier, that safety net.

Technology isn’t really demonised, how could it considering how David uses it as a tool for good? How could it when it’s the main plot driver, the chosen asthetic and framing device of the story and the film world? You’re watching a film about, and incorporating multiple screens on a screen of your own. You’re reading this review of the film about screens on a screen. Dangers are acknowledged, human relationships filtered via technology don’t come across as particularly healthy, but as a species our lives are so inextricably tied to our devices, accounts and easy access to any information that we can’t really function without it.

David realises quite early on in his search that he never really got to know his daughter. From her birth he is shown to incorporate technology heavily in their lives, primarily to preserve memories and stay in touch, but he never seems to truly talk to Margot, and especially not from outside the confines of the screen. He seems to allow her a certain amount of independence and privacy for her age because he trusts that he can always reach her if he needs to. It’s this complete trust in technology over his living, breathing daughter that starts the chain of events leading to her disappearance.

Searching is a film like no other released in 2018. Others may have filtered their story through the prism of technology, and it was the very basis of found footage horror films from THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT onwards. But Searching never feels contrived, the emotions and the characters never lessened by the form the story has taken. Everything is heightened by technology here and the expertise writer-director Aneesh Chaganty uses every tool at his disposal makes the prospect of his project an exciting one. SSP

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Review: Stan & Ollie (2018)


Way out way back: BBC Films/Entertainment One

I love slapstick comedy, and because I love slapstick comedy I love Laurel and Hardy, the masters of it. I’ve got my dad to thank for that. The makers of STAN & OLLIE clearly love Laurel and Hardy too, and that affection and respect really comes across in a straightforward, heartwarming but by no means schmaltzy way.

After years of declining popularity, Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C Reilly) embark on a European tour with the hope that the profile and profits will revitalise their career in Hollywood. But the tour takes its toll on their health and their relationship, and the crowds turning out for the early shows are underwhelming to put it mildly.

I listened to an interview with Stan & Ollie’s director Jon S Baird where he talked about the leads’ different methods of getting to the essence of their characters. Coogan started with the voice and built Stan’s character outwards whereas Reilly needed to move in his fatsuit before he could build Ollie’s character inwards. You very quickly forget that it’s not actually Laurel and Hardy you’re watching, the precision timing of the routine recreations, Reilly’s spot-on Ollie bounce and Coogan’s aimless amble as Stan.

They have such real chemistry, easy and natural as they hang out back stage as you’d have with any long friendship, slick and effortless on stage in a way you could only get from years rehearsing, performing and captivating audiences. You feel like you’re intruding on very private moments when they’re out of costume, worrying about money and spending time with their wives (Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda, both excellent) and it feels odd when the personas are, if not switched all the way off, then certainly turned way down.

There are plenty of pleasing little details in there for the fans, like seeing Stan removing his shoe heels to assist with his character’s distinctive walk and the pair’s ceaseless efforts to indulge their fans out in the world with their iconic catchphrases and character quirks and even recreating entire sequences for the film just as Laurel and Hardy did for their tour.

Long-running and popular characters often take on a life of their own and in a stroke of genius Stan and Ollie are shown to fall back on their comedy personas in their real lives as a security blanket, as Ollie turns on the bumbling charm shopping for jewellery for his wife he can’t afford or Laurel trying to look innocent and vacant as he plots to get into the office of a movie producer.

Jeff Pope’s script has some sharp one-liners, like Stan’s promise that, “I’m not marrying again, I’ll just find a woman I don’t like and buy her a house!” Coogan is given plenty of room to improv too, and Stan’s habit of constantly running lines and trying out new gags often has him come out with something spontaneously hilarious, usually to someone’s back.

The only scene I didn’t buy was what was clearly meant to be the dramatic turning point in the story. Stan and Ollie’s big public bust-up feels staged, over-scripted and very obviously is meant to be “the moment”. This is perhaps the only moment when Pope could have done with dialling it back and resisting the impulse to do “the biopic thing”.

Stan & Ollie delivers just what you want from a biopic of an iconic pair. Where it could have been broad and general it’s instead tightly focussed on the contrasting highest and lowest points of Laurel and Hardy’s careers and presenting the events we know, the events that happened that we didn’t know and the events that didn’t happen but work for the story, with wit and vitality. Coogan and Reilly have rarely, if ever, been better, equally at home as Laurel and Hardy performing or living their own lives. SSP

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Reviews: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)


You feelin’ lucky, partner? : Annapurna Pictures/Mike Zoss Productions

I thought I’d do something a little different for the Coen Brothers’ collection of Western shorts. Taken as a whole I enjoyed the piece, though I certainly thought this was a story selection with peaks and troughs, some sections which could have done with more Coenisms and others which could have done with less. I’d put it just below WILD TALES as an anthology film, and lower still in the brothers’ wider filmography. Here’s my take on each tale in isolation, as short Western tasters.

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS I haven’t laughed so hard at anything else this year than Scruggs’ (Tim Blake Nelson) ingenious way of dispatching an armed opponent with a saloon table. Scruggs is a singin’, guitar playin’ fast drawer who’s equally likely to burst into song as kill you. He’s also an arrogant sumbitch liable to show off his shooting iron tricks before delivering the killing blow. Of course violence begets violence and sooner or later Scruggs’ actions will come back to bite him in the ass. Underlying message: Don’t get cocky, partner.

NEAR ALGODONES It’s pretty incredible, if you think about it, that James Franco’s characters aren’t hanged more often. He invariably plays shysters, scoundrels and scumbags and he should have to pay for it now and again. After he underestimates the sheer ferocity of an unassuming and rambling elderly bank clerk (Stephen Root), Franco’s cowboy finds himself precariously noosed and balanced on a horse liable to wander (this stretch couldn’t be more Coen-y). This is the next funniest tale after Scruggs, and goes in for similar comically exaggerated violence, though it lacks a really satisfying denouement. Underlying message: Nobody’s that lucky.

MEAL TICKET Abandon hope all ye who watch this one. This is the bleakest of bleak tales and it’s really quite startling to witness a story from the Coens without even a trace of levity. Liam Neeson’s travelling showman uses a limbless thespian’s (Harry Melling) famous speeches to scrape a livelihood, but it isn’t enough for him. The pair never share a conversation and Neeson doesn’t say anything beyond drunk rambling and haggling for business and leisure. Underlying message: We’re all absolute sh*ts.

ALL GOLD CANYON “Hello Mr Pocket!” Tom Waits was born to deliriously croak that. His prospector arrives in a beautiful, unspoiled valley and starts to dig for gold. After systematically working his way along a whole riverbank eventually finds gold, and the obsession over said gold makes him a trickier than usual old timer to snuff out when another interested party appears. That’s pretty much it, except for a slightly dodgy looking CG deer that probably means something. Underlying message: Greed can help you survive.

THE GAL WHO GOT RATTLED The only tale that could have probably survived expansion to a full feature on its own. In some ways this feels more akin to a Jane Austen adaptation, what with all the comedy of manners and faltering professions of passion between Zoe Kazan’s young widow and Bill Heck’s wagon train heartthrob. It’s also unapologetically a revisionist Western, while it is potentially romantic, life is shown to be unforgiving and cruel. Underlying message: There was a little bit of hope in the Old West, but it rarely lasted.

THE MORTAL REMAINS To cap off the enterprise the Coens go for a Poe-esque story that starts to drift genres. Here’s hoping for a gothic anthology somewhere in their future. An unlikely group of traveling companions journey in a coach and discuss life, death and the universe as their prejudices towards their fellow passengers bubble towards the surface. A couple of the travellers, and probably everyone’s real destination as well, aren’t what they seem. Brendan Gleason sings a lovely song. Underlying message: Be wary of weird travel companions. SSP

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Review: The Favourite (2018)


Position secured? : Element Pictures/Film4

Queen Anne is a British monarch often overlooked, dismissed, forgotten. I’m into my history and I would have struggled to tell you much about her reign before watching THE FAVOURITE. The film isn’t a history lesson, that’s not what writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos is setting out to produce, but it does accurately reflect the cutthroat nature of being a courtier and the horribleness of life at every level, more often than not in a hugely entertaining fashion.

1708, with Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) frequently indisposed by poor physical and mental health, Britain’s matters of state are handled by Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), the Queen’s closest advisor, friend and lover. Lady Sarah uses her position of power to further her own aims, keeping her family in influential positions and her rivals in check, all the while professing her unconditional love of her monarch. When Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), a lady fallen on hard times arrives at court, a bitter rivalry begins.

The film doesn’t flinch at depicting the harsher aspects of early 18th Century life, from high mortality rates and rife disease to women being sold to settle gambling debts, and yet this still a properly funny film. The farcical situations, the silly visuals (both perhaps only slightly exaggerated from reality) and rapid-fire poetic swearing really tickled my funny bone. Emma Stone even gets to deploy a bit of silent movie-style physical comedy as she tries to sneak out of a room undetected at one point.

How can you possibly pick between the three lead performances when they’re so different from one another and all fit their own specific purpose? Olivia Colman may be central to The Favourite as the tragic woman-child queen, and yet it’s not really Anne’s story. Rachel Weisz is the most mesmerising she’s been in years as Anne’s confidant/lover/power-behind-the-throne Lady Sarah and Emma Stone plays Abigail as a ruthless and unlikeable manipulator who has every reason to have turned out the way she has. Lady Sarah plays dirty but Abigail plays dirtier. As great as Colman is portraying a grand figure decayed by grief, Weisz and Stone’s battle of wills is the fireworks display that you’ll really remember.

Perhaps never else in the history of the British monarchy were women so powerful and singular a force. After all, Queens Mary and Elizabeth I’s closest advisors were men. Sarah Churchill is the key difference in this period at court, the woman holding all the cards, and she is easily the most fascinating presence in the film. Representing the duck-racing, politically impotent buffoons of Parliament is Nicholas Hoult’s opposition leader Harley. Hoult must have had such fun playing an absolute cad among cads. They really should bring that old-timey insult back.

Directors who shoot period films with natural light don’t make it easy for themselves. The Favourite does indeed look great, the halls of Anne’s palace (real locations, though notĀ theĀ real locations) made to look both grand and grimy, spacious and imprisoning for the court’s inhabitants. The visuals and soundscape are designed to elicit particular responses in the viewer, fish-eye lenses and gnawing, repetitive musical notes accompany characters’ emotional and psychological breaks.

As I’ve said, this isn’t a history lesson but uses historical trappings to tell a good story. Several times the film seems to pause to wink, to throw something so anachronistically out there at you that you’re left sure there is another point being made. The lavish, detailed costumes look more than a little fantastical, and midway through a night of merriment at court, Lady Sarah busts out what can only be described as breakdancing moves. I’d expect nothing less surreal from the director of THE LOBSTER.

It’s probably the best film exploring the idea of control and manipulation I’ve seen since EX MACHINA. It’s all about the shifting balance of power and the dirty tactics used to retain a position of influence, whether your motivation be ambition, self-preservation, selfishness, love or a combination. Also like Alex Garland’s android chamber piece, this tale of a constantly shifting balance of power ends in a way that can be interpreted in several ways. I think I’d have to see it again but for now I’m struggling to make total sense of it, but I was utterly enthralled by the story that brought me there. SSP

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Review in Brief: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018)

Sometimes there is a place to laugh at really loud and long farts and murdering Bruce Wayne’s parents by time travel. TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES is that place. I’m a bit old for the show the film spins off from, but any fans of superhero movies (unless you think dark and moody is the only way to go, you’ll be the but of most of the jokes) should titter at some of the gags, geeky references and unapologetic silliness. For all the plot devices thrown in, this is essentially a series of linked skits, but it’s no less enjoyable for it. It’s bright, joyous and mischievous, the antidote to so many overly serious comic book adaptations over the last decade. Kids will love it, and parents, especially superhero fans, will find a lot in to like too, though they might not thank Robin (Scott Menville) for what he asks his audience to do just before the credits. SSP

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Review: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

mary poppins returns

What have you two tired adults done with Jane and Michael?: Disney/Lucamar Productions

Like everyone who’s reviewed this what I’m going to ask is (brace yourself) is MARY POPPINS RETURNS practically perfect in every way? Not quite, but its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses and its style and intentions are quite admirable. The original is one of the most pivotal films of my childhood and Returns is a thoroughly in-keeping and worthy continuation of the same world and characters.

Twenty years after first wishing for a nanny from the sky, Jane and Michael Banks (Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw) now adults with responsibilities, worries and tragedy in their lives once again find themselves in need of their magical guardian’s help. Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) comes back to a very different Banks household looking at an uncertain future.

So let’s get the important bit out of the way: Emily Blunt is very good. She is, as many have pointed out, posher that Julie Andrews (except for one alarming music hall number where she comes over all Cockney) but she’s got the same mischievous glint in her eye and even arguably a little more of a melancholy undercurrent to her take on the character.

Filling out the adult cast (the three kids are cute and appropriately wide-eyed), Lin-Manuel Miranda is the best possible player to get in to lead the more technically complex song-and-dance numbers as lamplighter Jack and has a seemingly bottomless well of warm charisma to spare. It is Ben Whishaw though who acts everyone else off the screen, funnily enough much like David Thomlinson in the original: both bare the brunt of the dramatic heavy lifting and undergo a transformation as the story is told, though Michael has much more understandable reasons to be less indulging of his children than his father did. Jane does unfortunately feel under-served by the script and Mortimer is given little to do beyond hints at a future romance and token gestures to her inheriting her mother’s passion for campaigning.

The songs are pretty good: very hummable, nice orchestration and a layered musical and lyrical build accompanying some spectacular musical numbers. My favourite by quite a way was the bathtub/ocean extravaganza “Can You Imagine That?” closely followed by the “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”-riffing “Nowhere to Go But Up”. It’s also got not one but two songs dealing quite explicitly with grief, which was unexpected. I will say that Meryl Streep’s song (and scene) is just awful and she’s clearly only there as another eccentric “cousin” of Mary to try out another accent and to add prestige to the poster.

In a world of unnecessary CG-animated remakes this film is now the only place we can find traditional hand-drawn Disney animation in a new release. As much as I enjoyed the new takes on THE JUNGLE BOOK and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and appreciated TANGLED and ZOOPIA on their own terms, I’ve missed this. It’s even the slightly jerky, scruffy outlined but completely alive animation the studio were using in the 60s, which is a treat for fans of that era.

Aside from the wealth of imaginative visuals and ambitious mounting of the musical numbers, I wouldn’t say there are too many surprises in store(the cameos were spoiled by the marketing). You can see pretty clearly the story’s trajectory, along with inciting incidents and jeopardy to come from the off. But it’s such a cozy, well-meaning $150 million musical blockbuster that you’ll hardly care.

I’m not sure what children will make of it, whether parents are still showing them the original or if whole families are being dragged along at the behest of misty-eyed adults. I watched Mary Poppins Returns with my parents, but they’ve been showing me the Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke one ever since I was able to gawp at a screen. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, but a certain level of craft and affection for the material helps as well. SSP

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