MARY POPPINS RETURNS

Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: David Magee, Rob Marshall, and John DeLuca
Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer

Review by Mia Santos

We have been getting quite a wave of sequels for films made decades prior. Disney is no exception to this fad. 2016’s Finding Dory came out 13 years after the success of Finding Nemo back in 2003. The Incredibles 2 literally picks up where it left off 14 years ago when the original installment was released. This brings us to Disney’s latest,¬†Mary Poppins Returns. This sequel has been in the works for some time. When it¬†was announced the film was in production, I was skeptical of who they could get to play Mary Poppins after Julie Andrews’ rendition. When I heard Emily Blunt would be filling her shoes, I couldn’t be more excited.

Emily Blunt is probably one of the most underrated actresses out there. She has come a long way from The Devil Wears Prada.¬†She’s honed her craft by playing tougher and more versatile roles that better show off her talent. If you haven’t seen the video of Emily Blunt’s accent game during a round of Heads Up on The Ellen Show I recommend you check it out! So much has changed in our world and many advances in cinema have happened since the 1964 release of Mary Poppins. My fear going into the Canadian premiere of Mary Poppins Returns was how it would go up against to the original 54 years later. Could it end up being just as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious as the first one?

The film opens with the classic shot of London, England set in 1934. Some 24 years after the original took place in 1910. Cockney lamplighter Jack played by Lin-Manuel Miranda is turning off the street lamps all over the city on his bike. He sings “Under the Lovely London Sky” a sort of love letter to London during the thick of the Depression.¬† The scene is beautifully mixed with live action and oil paintings of the city life from the era along with the opening credits until we reach the family Banks home. A nostalgic sight to be back at 17 Cherry Tree Lane where we find a grown-up Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer). They still reside there along with three children and their childhood caretaker now a lot older herself, Ellen (Julie Walters).

It’s not long when chaos ensues in the family home when a pipe bursts in the kitchen. The three children Anabel, John and George Banks, clearly accustomed to this sort of disarray immediately do their part to help out. They are Michael’s children, and he is struggling to make ends meet after the death of his wife. During all this they get visitors at the door, two repo men who’ve come to inform them the house is up for repossession. Michael has fallen three months behind on a loan he had taken out previously to help the household.

Jane reminds Michael of the shares their father had while working at the bank that could help pay off the predicament they find themselves in and immediately start searching for the certificates. Meanwhile, the children are sent to fetch groceries after Ellen points out there is nothing to eat in the home. During their walk to the store Georgie, the youngest of the three is distracted by a kite and a mysterious wind that ends up almost blowing him away… literally!

After being saved by Jack, we see that the winds have also brought a familiar silhouette that floats down from the clouds. Mary Poppins has returned to work at the Banks home once again! The children are skeptical and reject the idea of having a nanny at first thinking themselves independent enough. After a¬†quite eventful bath time, they find out it’s not so bad after all! I enjoyed that the children had more maturity than Michael and Jane did at their age. It works as a kind of reminder of our quickly maturing youth and serves as a lesson to let kids be kids.

I don’t want to spoil too much more of the plot line. It’s a ride that is worth going blind. But what I enjoyed most about the film was how it kept that old school dazzle and flair the original had. There are some minor, modern changes. For example, Mary Poppins BANGIN’ outfits that now include royal blue and burgundy side hats and coats and polka dot blouses with cute contrasting bowties. She is practically perfect in every way, but that doesn’t mean she outshines her predecessor in the slightest. Andrew’s Mary was snobby but had a good mythical force to her. Blunt possesses the same irresistible combination of qualities of being an angel, a disciplinarian, a devotee of the imagination, a tutor of delight and a splash of vanity like Andrews. She just doesn’t have that benevolent aura that Andrews had with her smile alone.

This Mary Poppins has more mystery surrounding her, and a better poker face rather than that devious smile Andrew’s Poppins always seemed to have.¬† All that said Emily Blunt still radiates in the song and dance numbers and provides a magical element we love about Mary Poppins. She did the role proud. There is no doubt her Golden Globe nomination is deserving.

The songs, all original have that same precursor sing-song catchiness filed with lessons and morals like those found in the 1964 version.¬† They really take you through each scene, and it conveys the feelings of the characters beautifully providing those of us who are familiar with the original that nostalgia. But the songs won’t get stuck in your head the same way “Spoon full of Sugar” did.¬† From a private moment where Michael is in the attic looking through his late wife’s things, he sings about how hard her death has been for him to the final song titled “Nowhere to Go But Up” we are given an incredible soundtrack that ties the film together beautifully but none have that ear worm quality.

Lin-Manuel Miranda steals the show during the Lamplighter song “Trip A Little Light Fantastic.” They use the street lights to guide them home including impressive dance moves using ladders and flame torches. When I think back to the film this is the scene that most resonates with me and left a lasting impression overall. It really brought me back to the Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke performances we all loved and old Disney films that had those flashy and impressive musical and dance numbers.

The all-star cast, in general, is exciting to see but Dick Van Dyke, all of 92 years of age makes an incredible cameo. It reminds us what a life force he can still be in cinema.  Angela Lansbury has an appearance herself. Meryl Streep plays the eccentric cousin to Poppins and Colin Firth plays the bank manager who insists on helping The Banks with finding their shares before he repossesses their home.

Oh, and you can’t forget the penguins!¬† The Banks head back to the classic animated world this time in the form of a broken vase, an homage the original no doubt and the penguins are a pretty big deal in this one too. Everything from the wardrobe to the acting to the storyline really filled me with such joy while watching. I really can’t say anything terrible about this film although I’m sure others will. There are even some inside, adult jokes so the parents can enjoy a little mature laugh in between all the kiddie fun.

Verdict:

SEE IT! Mary Poppins Returns is the feel-good movie to take the entire family to during the holidays! You will not be disappointed! This is a spoon full of sugar much needed in the world right now. Even though it’s based in the past it’s meticulous and modern in all it’s moving pieces from emotional to sensory value.¬† With everything terrible going on in the current world, the film vows to carry us forward on a more positive note because as the final song points out there is nowhere to go but up.

Mia Santos
mia.santos.guevara@gmail.com
Mia is a Toronto based writer and filmmaker. She is a self proclaimed comic book nerd, film buff and cat enthusiast. She has one short film under her belt titled Catch Up (2012) and you can read more of her film reviews on her blog The Catty Critic on WordPress.

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