Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer
Director: Rob Marshall
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Directed and produced by Rob Marshall, “Mary Poppins Returns” also stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer and Julie Walters with Colin Firth and Meryl Streep. The film, which introduces three new Banks children, played by Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and newcomer Joel Dawson, also features Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury. The film is set in 1930s depression-era London (the time period of the original novels) and is drawn from the wealth of material in PL Travers’ additional seven books. In the story, Michael (Whishaw) and Jane (Mortimer) are now grown up, with Michael, his three children and their housekeeper, Ellen (Walters), living on Cherry Tree Lane. After Michael suffers a personal loss, the enigmatic nanny Mary Poppins (Blunt) re-enters the lives of the Banks family, and, along with the optimistic street lamplighter Jack (Miranda), uses her unique magical skills to help the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives. Mary Poppins also introduces the children to a new assortment of colorful and whimsical characters, including her eccentric cousin, Topsy (Streep). The film is produced by Marshall, John DeLuca and Marc Platt. The screenplay is by David Magee based on The Mary Poppins Stories by PL Travers with Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman writing all new songs and Shaiman composing an original score.
It has been 54 years since the original Mary Poppins graced our screens and provided some of the most magical moments in Disney history. Enough time has passed where new generations can have their own version of this movie with a more up-to-date cast and new songs to span time. Mary Poppins Returns does just that and shows us that childhood magic is very much still alive and that some of us could take the time to reflect on what made us happy growing up. While the movie heavily borrows from the original, amazing animation and a superb pair of performances by Blunt and Miranda make Mary Poppins Returns well worth the five-decade wait.
The film follows Mary Poppins (Blunt), a nanny who has come back to the Banks residence to watch over the children as Michael (Whishaw), their father who was once raised by Mary Poppins, has financial struggles and cannot properly care for his kids. Michael must find a way to pay off his loan without losing his house while he and his family also discover the magic of the world around them. The thing that makes this film so captivating is just how strong Blunt is in the lead role. Most people would consider Julie Andrews’s performance in the original movie as one of the most iconic performances in Disney history, so needless to say Blunt has some massive shoes to fill. The fact that she is able to go step for step with that performance and capture everything that made that character so special is a testament to how talented Blunt is as an actress. When Blunt can combine the wit, joy, and facial expressions with complex choreography and tight vocals, she leaves her mark as not just one of the best of the year, but this is a performance that I believe many people will remember for many years to come. Outside of Blunt, Miranda is fantastic in his supporting role as a fun-loving lamplighter and heir apparent to Dick Van Dyke’s Bert character from the original movie. Miranda’s background in stage performance and music help make these huge musical seem grounded and slightly realistic and I do not believe there are many other actors out there today that could have done what he did in this role. Outside of the acting, the scene in the bowl might be one of the most immersive animated experiences of the year. It is amazing how the blend of live-action and animation mix perfectly together and completely captivate the audience in that scene. This scene is one of the few that took me back and made me feel like I was watching an older Disney movie and you can tell from the way it looked just how much time and care was put into that sequence. While the acting and animation were strong, that does not mean the film was flawless. For one thing, there was absolutely no purpose for having Meryl Streep’s character in the movie. It was honestly a massive waste of time and it felt like the only reason that scene was there was so the film could put, “with Meryl Streep,” on its poster. On top of this, I could not help but feel as though this movie was drawing too much from the original film and not trying to have its own identity. When some of the songs come up, all I could think was, “that was the modern, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” or, “Spoonful of Sugar.”” I wish the film had tried to be a little more original and focused less on capitalizing on the success of its predecessors. Looking at Disney’s movies just this year, Mary Poppins Returns has a very similar concept and plot to Christopher Robin, but Christopher Robin executes it on a much more concise and empathetic level. While it is easier to have fun with Mary Poppins Returns, the fun can only go so far before it gets a little tiresome.
Overall, if you are looking for a well-acted, well-made, fun movie to enjoy with the family, Mary Poppins Returns will certainly do the trick. Sometimes a big musical number is just the thing you need to get your family and friends and excited and while it may not be everyone’s favorite movie, it should be able to please most. When you have all of these talented people in one setting, you know the movie will be decent at minimum, and in the case of Mary Poppins Returns, it is certainly more than that.
Overall Score: 7/10