Apparently, it’s never too late to make a sequel. Anchorman 2 came out a decade after it’s initial release, Incredibles 2 fourteen, Mad Max: Fury Road thirty and now here’s Mary Poppins Returns fifty-four years after the original movie came out. I’d say better late than never but Mary Poppins wasn’t the kind of movie where you thought about what came next, it seemed pretty well wrapped up. But here we are.
Though it’s been fifty-four years since the release of the original movie it takes place about twenty years later. The original Banks children have all grown up, Michael (Ben Wishaw) is living in the old house, Jane (Emily Mortimer) has a place in the city but visits regularly. Michael himself has three children Annabel (Pixie Davis), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson), his wife that has passed on so he’s a single parent that has a lot to deal with, adding to everything he’s missed out on the last three payments of the mortgage which means the house will be repossessed, however, they do have stock in the bank which could save them, but they cannot find it, so they have one week and the search is on.
With this very tense time, the children go fly a kite out in the park. They get it in the air with the help of Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) the local lamplighter but a big gust a wind sends it flying off. Luckily there’s a nanny in the clouds that catches it. So here again, on Cherry Lane, Mary Poppins is the nanny to the Banks children.
Emily Blunt takes up the umbrella and fills the shoes of Julie Andrews as the magical nanny, this is no easy task. The image of Disney’s original Mary Poppins is pretty much ingrained into the public subconscious. From the colors, her posture, voice etc. We all know it in one form or another. Emily Blunt more takes on the bullet points of the character and makes it her own. She has the same stance and is perfectly postured and finely spoken but isn’t mimicking Julie Andrews. This way the performance is organic while still being recognizable as the character we know. Even her costume is different, she has a hat, scarf and velvet coat but they’re different, more colorful, she still looks like Mary Poppins but her own version of the character.
There are segments of the movie where Mary Poppins takes the children to do some seemingly mundane activity and they become grand, fantastical excursions. One particular one where she takes them inside a vase and they are brought into an animated world. 2D animation isn’t done much these days (sadly) but when it comes to Disney they are still the best at it. We get a big, loud and proud musical hall segment. The designs are more sleek and modernized than the original movies and the live action actors eyelines match with their animated co-stars which makes the whole segment more convincing. A nice touch to this is that the conflict that occurs within the bowl parallels the conflict in the real world. This is a good touch because it makes the excursions more meaningful rather than just time-fillers.
The song is written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman with Richard M. Sherman serving as a consultant. Lyrically they have done some fine work with some of the slickest rhymes you will find in a musical in some time. Though while the songs were playing I had a fun time when I walked away I found that I couldn’t remember one, except for two. “Lovely London Skies” (which opens and closes the movie) and “Can You Imagin That” where Mary Poppins takes the children on a fantastic experience in the bath.
Director Rob Marshall, who also directed Chicago, seems to be built to direct movie musicals. He has the right sense of camera choreography as well as when there are intricate dance movements happening either slow it down or lock it down so there’s not too much movement going on and the screen does not become a blur.
Mary Poppins doesn’t fly down when everything is all going swimmingly, she arrives when there are some serious problems brewing. People probably remember the songs and the dancing and laughs more than anything in the previous movie and they’re not wrong to remember them, they’re wonderful moments, but the core of the story comes from a person that arrives when things are going bad and used magical things to teach us basic lessons. The movie knows that and isn’t afraid to layer itself with heavier moments.
Is this another one of the great movie musicals? I don’t think so, but who really knows, maybe time will prove me wrong. What it is is bright, energetic, confident and more than charming with some nicely handled delicate moments.