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Posts Tagged ‘Dick Van Dyke’

Emily Blunt

“MARY POPPINS RETURNS” My rating: B+ (Opens wide on Dec. 19)

130 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

First, the most obvious question: Is “Mary Poppins Returns” as good as the 1965 original?

Answer: No.  But  it comes close.

Disney’s original “Poppins” is one of — if not the — greatest family films of all time. Everything about it works, from the performances to the writing, the execution, and especially the Sherman Brothers’ astounding score of instantly hummable songs.

So when director Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” “Into the Woods,” “Nine”) took on this sequel, he had a lot to live up to.

Mostly he succeeds. There are a few flat sequences and the new Music Hall-steeped score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, while perfectly serviceable and occasionally inspired (the moving “The Place Where Lost Things Go, for example), is never as catchy as the original.

But Emily Blunt makes for a slyly entertaining Mary, “Hamilton” star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda makes a solid film debut, and several of the musical numbers  are showstoppers.  A delectable sense of childlike wonder prevails.

The plot cooked up by David Magee, John DeLuca and Marshall draws heavily from P.L. Travers’ nine “Poppins” books, and in many instances offers a sort of variation on high points from the ’65 film.

The setting has been advanced from pre World War I London to the Depression era.  Michael and Jane Banks, the kids from the original, are now adults (played by Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer).  Michael, the widowed father of three, still works at the bank where his father was employed; Jane, taking a cue from her suffragette mother, is a labor organizer.

Michael, who is hopeless with money, is about to lose the family home to foreclosure by his own employer (represented by two-faced exec  Colin Firth).  The family’s only hope is to find a small fortune in bank shares purchased decades earlier — but the papers have all gone missing.

Into this tense situation who should appear but Mary Poppins (Blunt), who in her own no-nonsense way organizes and entertains  the incredibly adorable kids (Pixie Davies,  Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson) with a series of fantastic adventures.

Our narrator through all this is a lamplighter, Jack (Miranda), who serves precisely the same function as did Dick Van Dyke’s chimneysweep Bert in the original. Introduced with the song “Lovely London Sky,” Jack is featured in “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”  featuring a host of dancing lamplighters that mirrors the “Step in Time ” extravaganza from 1965.

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Dick Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam

“WAIT FOR YOUR LAUGH” My rating: B+

85 minutes | No MPAA rating

Most of us remember Rose Marie, who died last week at the age of 94, as the wise-cracking comedy writer Sally Rogers on TV’s “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

But that was only one stage in a show-biz career that lasted nine decades and was crammed with dozens of firsts.

“Wait for Your Laugh,” Christina Tucker and Jason Wise’s loving documentary, covers Rose Marie’s remarkable life, in the process delivering a pretty comprehensive look at the evolution of entertainment in the 20th century.

Based on a series of filmed interviews with the still-sharp-as-a-tack Rose Marie — as well as with colleagues and friends like Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Tim Conway and Peter Marshall — the film reveals a remarkable life.

Rose Marie Mazzetta became a child star at age 4, winning a talent contest by belting out songs in the style of Sophie Tucker.  This led to radio appearances as Baby Rose Marie. When listeners refused to believe that a child could sing like that, she hit the vaudeville circuit in its final days. Audiences couldn’t deny their eyes and ears.

Al Capone and other gangsters (“the boys”) treated little Rose Marie as an adopted daughter, offering protection. They could’t protect her from her father/manager, who siphoned off millions before she was old enough to declare her emancipation. (The old man was arrested 128 times for violation of child labor laws.) (more…)

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