As someone who grew up on the original “Mary Poppins”, I was cautiously optimistic about “Mary Poppins Returns”, aside from the fact that I thought that Emily Blunt looked fantastic as the titular lead of the movie, which is something as she is filling the legendary Julie Andrews’ shoes here. The result is a fun family film that is entertaining and enjoyable, feels familiar yet isn’t, feels like an old movie, has fantastic performances from everyone in the cast, and thankfully feels like it can also stand its own while still honoring the spirit of the original. The only downside here is that the songs aren’t as catchy as the ones I grew up on, but, who knows, maybe these songs will be just as catchy as the original ones to kids getting to know this character for the very first time.
Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns” was directed by Rob Marshall; with a screenplay by David Magee; a story by David Magee, Rob Marshall and John DeLuca; and is based on the “Mary Poppins” books by P.L. Travers. It also must be stated that according to some research, it seems that Emily Blunt’s characterization of the iconic British nanny is more similar to the book version that Andrews’ version (although, in my opinion, both versions are just “perfectly practical in every way”.)
The film takes place in 1930s London, decades after the first “Mary Poppins” film. Here, a grown up Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is barely keeping himself together a year after his wife died, leaving with him their three children- Annabel, John and Georgie. He does have some comfort, however, with Ellen (Julie Walters), the family cook, and his sister Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer). On the day that Michael and Jane are informed that they might lose the house to the bank that Michael works for, the three Banks children end up meeting Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), who flies in on Michael’s old kite, and declares that she’s there to take care of all them. Michael and Jane try their best to save the house, while Mary keeps the children in shape and teaches them valuable life lessons along with some wonderful animated adventures, alongside an old charge of hers, Jack (Lin Manuel Miranda), a lamplighter.
One of the best things about “Mary Poppins Returns” is that the film works both as a stand alone movie, and a sequel that doesn’t have to delve to deep for the nostalgia of the original film to be enjoyable and entertaining. It can stand alone, yet honors the spirit of the original. It’s a wholly new “Mary Poppins” adventure that can be enjoyed by all ages.
The live action mixed animated sequences were some of the things I was looking forward to, as well as the songs, and while the songs didn’t stand out to me as much as the original one did, the animated sequences were full of fun and whimsy, just the way only “Mary Poppins” can have.
This film also didn’t feel like a film that was done in this day and age, while still not feeling to outdated, from the big dance sequences, to the way the set was light, the painted backdrops, and a whole credits sequence that was placed at the beginning of the film like movies from before.
I also enjoyed the main plot and story better than the original, as it felt more emotional and raw, and because their experiences have been experienced by many before. Personally, this story connected to me on a very personal level.
The performances were all top notch and consistent all the way through. Emily Blunt deserves all the praise that she has been getting as she pulled off an incredible performances as the lead character, and filling in the shoes of Julie Andrews’ fantastic performance as the same character. Blunt’s Mary is very different from Andrews’ version, but it’s a welcome change as Blunt makes the character her own, while also being the kind of Mary she needs to be for the Banks family at that particular moment in their lives.
Full of magic, whimsy, animated goodness, fun dance numbers, and an emotional story at its core, “Mary Poppins Returns” is a delightful treat that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages, without it pandering towards sentimentality and campiness, while still honoring the spirit of the original.
Now, you know the drill! From here on out, there will be spoilers!
As mentioned earlier, I really liked the fact that this movie can stand alone and that it didn’t need to deliberately self-reference itself for us to get that nostalgic feel. Instead, there were little winks and nods to the past, and I love that, aside from the old timey feel that the movie gave us overall, that they were also able to include a cameo appearance from Dick Van Dyke himself. (Another interesting cameo appearance here was Angela Lansbury, who also played a character with magical abilities who had to take care of some young children in “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”.)
I also liked the fact that while Miranda’s Jack did remind you of Van Dyke’s Bert, you could see that he’s his own character, and I did like the little explanation and the idea that Mary has also been a nanny to many other children as well. (Although, secretly, I still do believe that she is a Time Lord.)
The main story here was more emotional, personal and raw, which made us empathize with the Banks’ situation more without them having to overdo it. In this respect, Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer gave us great performances, and really did help bring the emotional core of the main story to us.
There were some moments in which some of the story beats did feel the same as the original, but they were able to give us enough as well that made the story feel different as well, and there were some moments that genuinely surprised me. In fact, when Mary declared that they were going to stop time, I really didn’t think that it would involve Jack and the gang literally climbing up Big Ben.
Blunt gave us a very different kind of Mary Poppins in this film, but it was the kind of firmness that the Banks family needed at this particular moment, while at the same time making the character her own. There’s a little bit of an edge to her that makes her stand out, but not so much as to drown out all the whimsy that comes with the character. I cannot imagine anyone else but Blunt filling in the shoes of Andrews’ legacy with this character, and she exceeded all my expectations in how well she portrayed it. I also love the fact that she lets the children, and Michael and Jane, figure things out on their own, and steps in only when absolutely necessary.
The animated mixed live action sequences were nothing short of magical, and while nothing can ever replace the “Step in Time” dance number for me, the dance sequence in “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” honestly did give me chills. (Also, is it just me, or did those scenes in the park at the end remind you of an animated mixed live action sequence at the park or at the fair in the original?)
Again, my only gripe about this film is that while the music is good, and I’m pretty sure that children might be humming them for days, it isn’t as catchy or as iconic as the original for me.
“Mary Poppins Returns” is a fun and enjoyable movie and a great sequel to the original one, that captures everything that was great about the original film and yet can stand alone. This movie is great not only for those who grew up with the original one, but also for the younger generation who is experiencing the Mary Poppins magic for the very first time. I can’t wait to have more adventures with Mary and the gang, if Ill be as delighted as I was with this one.
Have you seen “Mary Poppins Returns”? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below!
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