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Mary Poppins Returns...and Pushes Up Our Deadline

January 8, 2019



“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” sing the merry streetlamp lighters as they dance around the posh neighborhood of the Banks family. I saw this bright, eye-popping film with a couple of teens over the holiday. Of course, the film’s explicit theme has nothing to do with climate change but the central plot, problem, what have you, puts a lot of fossil fuel at stake.


The Banks children from the original movie are now grown and the widowed Michael Banks is now sharing the original house with his three children and his sister Jane.  The mid-century setting means that the light fantastic is fueled by mid-century coal mining but unlike the original film, this version is sunny and clean, the coal dust has disappeared and the darkened buildings are brightened by contemporary blockbuster budgeting. 


Sadly, the Banks’ house is showing its age, the pipes are old and the house foundation has been weakened by the canon firing next door.   More children now inhabit the nursery but the place seems lonelier though stocked with familiar, lovely antiques.. A deluge, unseen, sends the family fleeing from the kitchen. When Poppins magic causes the children to be whooshed down the drain of the bathtub, the children swim in a pristine sparkling sea of creatures and reefs where no plastic debris or bleaching coral are in sight.   Dreams of drowning may be wrapped up in the existential threat to the island state of the UK, even more than the rest of the world, but this scene leaves only a vague wonderful memory in the minds of the wakening children. 


The immediate threat to the Banks family is that the Old House is financially underwater so to speak.  The middle-aged Michael Banks has been busy making art but not money and he has lost his stock securities somewhere in his rambling home. He faces a deadline of paying up by 12 AM on a certain day or resigning himself to the dreadful prospect of moving into his sister's flat.  Luckily, with the help of the youngest child, the cavernous attic yields up the stock deed at the very last moment.


Mary Poppins naturally can buy him a few more minutes by pushing back the minute hand of Big Ben, just enough to allow Michael's taxicab to arrive safely at the bank.    The whole pretense, of course, does just the opposite.  Since there is nothing so important, apparently, as securing the title of a large old house, Poppins has brought the minute hand of the climate clock a smidgen closer to midnight.  Her predictable release into the atmosphere leaves behind a scene oddly lacking in emotional resolution -- love of hearth, if not home. 

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