Mary Poppins Returns is directed by Rob Marshall and it’s the sequel to the 1964 classic Mary Poppins. Set in the thirties, Michael and Jane Banks are now all grown up and a family loss occurs, Michael finds himself in a tough position as he has to find a way to keep the house from being evicted. Meanwhile Mary Poppins returns to take the children off his hands and go on fantastical adventures, together with lamplighter Jack. The movie stars Emily Blunt, Lin Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep with a special appearance by Dick Van Dyke.
I remember seeing the first Mary Poppins about six years ago and while I enjoyed it, i thought it was too long and a bit boring. Nevertheless when the trailer for this came out, I actually got really teary-eyed. So I decided to revisit the first movie and I did so the same day I saw the sequel. Literally an hour after I finished the first movie, I went to the screening. It was the first movie I went to on opening day. The point is that I went into this movie craving more of the magic that the first Mary Poppins brilliantly crafted.
I was with a rather large crowd for my local cinema, so I was happy to see that there are actually still fans of not only musicals but of the first Mary Poppins. When the movie ended, I witnessed something truly magical, the audience actually clapped at the end. This never happens, never ever so I do give this movie that. Now this movie falls under a cerain category for Disney which lately has been piling up. The category is nostalgia vs originality.
Beauty and the Beast (2017) was an almost exact replica of it’s animated counterpart and that was a remake so it’s understandable because that was part of it’s job. However this is a sequel. The job of a sequel is to explore more of the world that the first one crafted. It develops characters and goes in a different route than the original. Mary Poppins Returns does half of those things. It develops it’s main character and it slighlty explores new ground. Unfortunately it follows the exact same story as the original and it doesn’t leave as good an impression. That’s where the nostlagia comes from and sweeps the audience of it’s feet.
While I don’t think that they should’ve gone that route, I don’t think it’s necessarily a sin or a major flaw because a lot of movies lately have done the same, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Halloween (2018) most noticeably. Both are sequels and both are really familiar. The only thing I consider a flaw is that for some inexplicable reason, there is an actual antagonist in this movie. Was it necessary? Not in the slightest. It’s incredibly cliched and overdone and it hurts the sophisticated nature of the movie.
Also I was really excited for the animated scenes but I was actually really underwhelmed. I thought the animation was outstanding and it looked spectecular but unlike the animated scenes from the first one, these are not carefree and adventurous. In my opinion they are a bit stale and dull. I know that I am the only one who feels like this but if they did something different like actually have fun maybe I would’ve enjoyed it more. That being said, I absolutely loved the “A Cover is not the Book” number.
Now finally the many reasons why I love this movie. Yes even though while it’s an incredibly similar story, there are many factors that help this movie feel more original. The cast for example is amazing. Emily Blunt is incredible as Mary Poppins. I remember seeing an interview where she said that she never studied Julie Andrew’s performance, instead she went for the books. Her effort truly show as she makes this iconic character her own but at the same time, it’s still the Mary Poppins we all love.
Lin Manuel Miranda is an absolute joy. His upbeat spirit is just as infectious and charming as Dick Van Dyke’s was in the original. His cockney accent is slightly better though. Whishaw and Mortimer are great as Michael and Jane. Especially Whishaw as Michael who nailed every scene he’s in. He handles the emotional scenes really well, he actually made me teary-eyed during his small number, “A Conversation”.
Meryl Streep is also in this movie and she plays Mary Poppins’s cousin and has a number with an accent and it’s there because the first movie had “I Love to Laugh”. Dick Van Dyke has an extremely heart-warming cameo near the end, the audience loved it. He’s still got it even at 93! Michael’s children were portrayed by three talented child actors. However I did feel that there was one too many. One of them could’ve definitely been cut from the story and have no effect.
Now what I don’t understand is how people are saying that the songs are forgettable and not as good. Marc Shaiman did such a great job. I can’t name my favourite songs but I’ll list the entire soundtrack but the ones that stood out are “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky”, “Can You Imagine That?”, “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and “Nowhere to Go But Up!”. They are not only toe-tapping musical numbers but they carry so much of the movie’s atmosphere and they are sung with such passion and enthusiasm, they truly are a delight. The set and costumes are gorgeous to look at. I expected nothing short of brilliance from Sandy Powell who also made the gorgous costumes for Cinderella (2015).
Overall Mary Poppins Returns is a perfect family movie that is fun for both the children and the adults. While it is not revolutionary unlike it’s predecessor, it’s cast and the brilliant score and musical numbers help to make this movie a joyous and nostalgic return to Cherry Tree Lane.