This review of Mary Poppins Returns on UHD Blu-Ray is the very first review by a guest author on That AV Dude! So, without further ado, we are happy to present our first guest author: Adam Byrne!
Mary Poppins Returns is the newest family musical experience from Disney. Upon hearing about it in 2015, I was personally curious about how such a magical original could be followed up over 50 years later. I was also sort of scared it would be yet another tired reboot, of which movie fans have been beaten over the head by year after year. When my preorder copy arrived a few days early, I was thoroughly excited to take a seat and get lost in the world of Cherry Tree Lane and Poppins fantasy. While I am delighted to say the film far exceeded my doubts and expectations, the technical merits of yet another Disney disc leave something to be desired.
Buy the Film Here:
MARY POPPINS RETURNS [Blu-ray]
Buy the Original Film Here:
Mary Poppins (50th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]
A Quick Breakdown of the Characters and Themes
For those familiar with the original Mary Poppins, you may remember the young protagonists’ Jane and Michael Banks. They were mischievous, adorable, and enchanted by Mary Poppins. Here, you see them as adults. They live life as most adults do — consumes with work, struggles, and are dealing with change and loss. Michael has lost his wife and has three young children: Annabelle, John, and Georgie. When the cherished Banks home becomes a foreclosure, the Banks family scrambles to find Jane and Michaels father’s bank shares to save the house. Of course, that’s when that big wind comes, and Mary Poppins once again descends onto Cherry Tree Lane.
To say that this film isn’t hinged on delightful nostalgia would be an understatement. From the first moments onward, we are treated to beautiful music (courtesy of Marc Shaiman) and a new embodiment of Mary Poppins (played quite splendidly by Emily Blunt.) Lin Manuel-Miranda takes on the male sidekick role of Jack, a friendly lamplighter. They ensconce the chemistry that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke shared and take the Banks children on one incredible adventure after another.
We are treated to scenes of bath time adventure, animated/live-action fusion that still manages to dazzle — even those of us that aren’t children. We see sentimental moments, incredible sequences of dance, and some unexpected appearances (by Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, and Dick Van Dyke reprising a role from the original film.) Even the villain, played by Colin Firth, is quite good! Director Rob Marshall really three a lot of love into his direction, and we get a very kindred spirit feel between this film and the original Poppins.
Audience Participation Sets Mary Poppins Apart
In short, the audience is invited as one song says to “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and jump right in with the cast. This movie, in my humble opinion, is delightful in nearly every way. I had a laugh, enjoyed the songs, marveled at the technical aspects of the special effects, and found myself wanting to dance and sing along with the cast. This film is like going back to the best parts of your childhood and feeling that childlike happy all over again. For fans of the original, this is a no-brainer — you’ll love this movie. For those new to the experience, you don’t necessarily have to see the original to enjoy this movie, but I’d strongly suggest a viewing. You won’t be disappointed. This is a very well done continuation of a Disney classic!
Equipment used to review Mary Poppins Returns on UHD Blu-Ray:
- Samsung QN65Q6FNA 65″ Q6FN QLED Smart 4K UHD TV (2018 Model)
- Panasonic UB-200 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player (2017 Model)
- Marantz AV Audio & Video Component Receiver Black (NR1608), Works with Alexa
- Bose Jewel Cube Speakers (Pair) (Left/Right Channels)
- Acoustic Audio AA321B Speakers (Surround and Height Surround Speakers)
- Mitsubishi M-CTR-5 Center Channel Speaker (Vintage 1996)
- Mitsubishi M-SUB-10 10-Inch Powered Subwoofer (Vintage 1996)
Please note that this TV has been calibrated by reviewer over several months, dialing in levels for TV to be viewable in a dark or lightroom. Black levels are never grey, and if the day comes when he can afford a professional calibration, he shall get one.
Vital Disc Stats for Mary Poppins Returns
- 4K Resolution of a 2K Digital Intermediate of film shot at 3.4K
- Aspect Ratio is 2:39.1
- Codec: HEVC/H265
- HDR10 HDR
- English Dolby Atmos (with a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Base for those who don’t have an Atmos setup)
- French and Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus
- English 2.0 Descriptive Audio Track for those that are visually impaired
- English SDH, French, and Spanish Subtitles
Picture Quality Review of Mary Poppins Returns on UHD Blu-Ray
Picture Quality Score: 8/10
Mary Poppins Returns was coded in HDR10 for the 4K Blu-Ray edition. Right out of the gate, visually, you are treated to a “mixed bag” of images. At the beginning of the film, the image is sort of soft, and the colors appear to be drab and some kind of drained. Sort of like the non-Oasis scenes in Ready Player One. It’s not a perfect image at first, but, to me at least, it feels as if that was the intent. There is no grain as the film was shot digitally. Once you go into the fantasy world of Mary Poppins, you are treated to more abundant colors, vibrant brights, and blacker blacks. It’s as if you’ve been given a whole new color palette to work with visually.
Sequences such as the “Royal Doulton Music Hall” are gorgeously color and detail-rich — animated parts are cohesive with the live-action, and the special effects appear pretty seamless. Another standout from a detail standpoint is the” Turning Turtle” scene give way to many focused and detailed items. You can make out even the tiniest details. The “Trip A Little Light Fantastic” sequence is a nice display of darker colors of blue, purple, and black, and you don’t miss any definition in the darkness.
Still An Upgrade Over The Standard Blu-Ray
This isn’t to say the 4K Blu-Ray image quality is perfection. In comparison to the 1080P disc, the most significant difference is that the textures are more apparent and that there is a slight increase in sharpness. The real standout here is the HDR coding. The scenes involving stage shows and sunny days have that “4K Pop” we all love, as well as a lovely sunset moment in the end that I found to be quite striking. Overall, I was pretty impressed, but for me, this wasn’t a reference-grade 4K transfer.
Audio Quality Review for Mary Poppins Returns
Sound Quality Score: 7.5/10
Disney has outfitted Mary Poppins Returns with a Dolby Atmos mix. As you know, those without an Atmos setup will be treated to a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD core mix. This mix is yet another misstep in the Disney UHD Blu-Ray canon. From the start, you will have to turn your setup up about 10-15 dB higher than your average film listening volume. For perspective, I tend to watch my movies at an average volume of 50-52, and during this film, it was raised to 65-67 and at one point 70. Even at that high a volume, there were still moments when I felt I could’ve raised the volume higher.
Height channels weren’t really used for anything more than adding more spatial separation to the musical score. With scenes of homes turning upside down, an admiral firing off canons, people floating in the air, and a very cool scene involving Big Ben, I was genuinely hoping for more Atmos height effect moments. The sound field is spaced out throughout the speakers, but there weren’t many if any overhead highlights to be found. So much so that at one point, I had to ask my husband to get up on a chair to check and see if he could hear anything with his ear to the speakers mounted at the top of the ceiling.
Bass is another issue. This is a musical, and music is the primary bearer of bass with this mix. The LFE content is sort of on the anemic side at that! A few cannon blasts from the character Admiral Boom throughout provide the most thundering lows. Everything else to my ears bass wise is just sort of blah, with no standouts overall.
Unfortunately This Has An “Atmouse” Mix
Once you get your volume high enough, dialogue and singing come apparent from the center channel. In your surround channels, you will hear the nature of London and Mary Poppins fantasy world come to life. The bikes and ladders of the many lamplighters in the film pop up in those surrounds from time to time, as well as the trademark winds that mark Mary Poppins arrivals and departures.
Overall, the sound quality of this mix is yet another victim to the not-so-affectionately known “Atmouse” syndrome. It’s an Atmos mix, but you wouldn’t know it to hear it. This one, for me, basically just slides by as OK. It’s quite disappointing to hear a movie sound so bland that has so many moments rife for this brilliant sound format. Another opportunity lost, unfortunately.
That’s a Wrap!
Despite some disappointments in both the Audio and Video quality of this film, I will definitely be revisiting it on the story, music, effects, and acting elements. I was delighted by this film and reminded of all those wonderful memories I had of watching Mary Poppins on VHS as a kid. I enjoyed the music, the dancing, and the sentimental family film moments with a childlike approach that, for me, makes it a no-brainer watch for fans of the original. For musical fans, I see quite a bit to enjoy too! I’d lovingly award this one a 4 out of 5 stars for the movie itself.
For technical merits alone, I would go with a 4 out of 5 stars for the image quality. For that “so-called” Atmos mix, I would go with a 3.5 out of 5 stars for the audio quality. This disc truly is a mixed bag.
In the end, I feel that this 4K UHD Blu-Ray is the very best way you can see this film, and despite the disc being imperfect, I do believe it is worth the look for Poppins, Disney, or Musical fans alike. I sincerely hope though that Disney becomes more consistent in their audio quality as this continuing audio disappointment is becoming frustrated. Overall, recommended.