Though it’s easy to be something of a cynic lately when it comes to Disney’s incessant choice to re-do many of their beloved back catalogue titles, along comes Mary Poppins Returns to delight us all with wit and whimsy, and serve as a healthy reminder that the House of Mouse knows how to adhere to charm.
A new story of everyone’s favourite supercalifragilisticexpialidocious nanny, but one that still very much nods to the 1964 original, director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods) and screenwriter David Magee (Finding Neverland, Life of Pi) sets the tone immediately when Emily Blunt – stepping into the role that made Julie Andrews an Oscar-winning star – majestically floats on-screen; Mary’s trademark parasol sits this particular entrance out, instead she’s tailing the end of a kite – a form of transport that serves as one of many loveable winks to its predecessor.
Just why Mary has resurfaced after 25 years isn’t all that important – she’s there to help former charge Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his respective children from losing their home to dastardly banker William Wilkins (Colin Firth) – because, and apologies if this is a spoiler, we all know Mary will ultimately save the day. Mary Poppins Returns is very much a film that finds its joy in telling its story rather than resolving it, and oh how much joy this film has to share.
Restoring peace in the lives of Michael and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) is a beat not far removed from the original, nor is a gloriously extended 2D animation sequence in the film’s mid-section (Disney even brought back some of the original animators out of retirement to achieve cohesion), but the feelings of nostalgia one is likely to conjure when watching this glorious sequel is expected, and Mary Poppins Returns banks on the glee of familiarity.
It isn’t all been there, done that though as it would appear Mary has acquired a knack for snark over the years (her quips and comebacks are genuinely amusing) and her first major number in the film (a delightful ditty titled “Can You Imagine That?”) is a dazzling under-the-sea spectacle that’s rich with computer animation; even the aforementioned hand-drawn sequence appears crisper.
Whilst it’s understandable that fans of the original could proceed with caution towards Mary Poppins Returns, it must be noted that this film isn’t acting as a replacement. Mary as embodied by Andrews, and the delightful cockney charm of Dick Van Dyke (who shows up in a brief cameo here, continuing to dazzle with his voice, moves, and unmatched twinkle) aren’t in threat of being overshadowed by Blunt or Lin-Manuel Miranda (the Broadway star playing a former apprentice to Van Dyke’s character), the latter simply acting as adjunction to the former.
As cliched as it is to say, Mary Poppins Returns is practically perfect in every way. Younger audiences experiencing her for the first time are likely to be just as entranced as their parents were when witnessing the original. And for those parents, Emily Blunt’s incarnation is both a beautiful tribute to Andrews and a stellar performance in its own right, once again cementing the actress as one of the most versatile, likeable, and talented performers of her generation.
About Mary Poppins Returns
In Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” an all new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and Lin-Manuel Miranda plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.
Mary Poppins Returns (G) is screening in Australian theatres from January 1st 2019.