Over the holiday I saw Mary Poppins Returns and loved it! The callbacks! The charm! Lin-Manuel Miranda rapping! Dick Van Dyke dancing on a desk! AN ANGELA LANSBURY CAMEO! I mean, come on!
The story centers around Jane and Michael Banks, now adults. Michael is a widower with three children, still living at 17 Cherry Tree Lane in the midst of the Great Depression.
After his wife died, Michael took out a loan from the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, but fell behind on his payments. William Weatherall Wilkins, Mr. Dawes Jr.’s nephew who runs the bank, threatens to repossess the house if Michael can’t repay the loan.
This conflict of money comes to a head in the end, and that’s where things felt a bit…off. To explain, we have to transport back to the original 1964 film:
In one scene, Mary Poppins sings a lullaby to the children about an old Bird Woman who sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral selling bags of crumbs to feed her pigeon flock, imploring passers-by to “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag.”
When the children go on an outing with their father to his job at the bank the next day, they see the Bird Woman. Michael wants to feed the birds with the tuppence he has. However, his father forbids him to spend the money.
Once inside Fidelity Fiduciary, the children’s father, along with the chairman Mr. Dawes Sr. and the other board members ambush Michael, trying to get his tuppence. Dawes Sr. grabs the coins from Michael’s hand, but Michael takes them back and the children escape from the bank, which by now is full of angry customers demanding their money back too.
That evening at home, Jane and Michael approach their father and Michael gives the tuppence to him as an apology.
Later, Mr. Banks reports to Fidelity Fiduciary, where he is fired for his children’s role in the bank uprising.
But suddenly Banks becomes giddy and starts laughing. He tells a joke Michael had told him, and then gives Mr. Dawes Sr. the tuppence, saying “There’s the tuppence. The wonderful, fateful, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious tuppence. Guard it well. Goodbye!” and leaves.
The next day while flying kites, Dawes Jr. informs Mr. Banks that his father died from laughing at the joke, and Banks is re-hired.
Fast-forward to the climax of Mary Poppins Returns: As the Banks family tries to appeal to Wilkins to keep the house, Dawes Jr. suddenly swoops in to fire Wilkins and reveal something about Michael’s tuppence.
Dawes explains, “There was a little boy named Michael who wanted to give his tuppence to a bird lady– but in the end, and after a little persuasion, he decided to give it to his father instead [who then] gave that tuppence to the bank and asked us to guard it well. We did just that, and thanks to several quite clever investments…that tuppence has grown into quite a sum!”
But doesn’t this ending step over the point Mary tried to make with “Feed The Birds”? At the very least it’s a bit confusing. Mary taught young Michael to love the Bird Woman, but in the sequel, not giving her TWO PENNIES saved his family from homelessness.
While the bank partners in Mary Poppins represent greed and frugality, the Bird Woman represents charity, kindness, and the importance of enjoying life’s small pleasures.
Other people felt similarly:
Also, IMO Mr. Banks could have set up accounts for his children without forcing Michael to give up his own money; the appearance of the family’s home indicates that George was bringing in a good salary. JUST SAYIN’.
But don’t get me wrong: Mary Poppins Returns is still practically perfect in every way. If Mary herself saw this, she’d certainly have something to say about it! Now, spit-spot, off you go!