Review of 'Mary Poppins Returns'

mary_poppins_returns.jpg I am a big fan of the original “Mary Poppins” film staring Julie Andrews. Sure, it might not be as true to the source material by P. L. Travers as it could have been (much to the consternation of the author, see Saving Mr. Banks) but it was a great film full of excellent songs, incredible visuals and charming performances. It was then received with more than a bit of trepidation the news that a sequel was coming to the big screen: “Mary Poppins Returns”.

A now grown-up Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is a widower living in his parent's home on Cherry Tree Lane with his children John (Nathanael Saleh), Annabel (Pixie Davies), and Georgie (Joel Dawson), along with housekeeper Ellen (Julie Walters). When the bank announces their intention to repossess the property due to not paying off a loan Michael and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) frantically search the house for proof of the shares they remember their father had in the bank. The children go off to play in the park with a kite when, wouldn't you know it, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) comes down with the kite from the clouds. She offers her services as a nanny to Michael, again taking the children on a series of adventures that may…or may not…be real accompanied by jovial lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda).

It was always going to be a difficult ask to follow up the original but here I think Emily Blunt does an admirable job as Mary Poppins which seems more in tune with the serious, stern character from the original books rather than the more sentimental one portrayed by Julie Andrews. As with the original film, here Mary does not directly solve problems but gently teaches the family what they need to know. Having said that this is an altogether darker film from the first with the real risk that the Banks' children will be out on the street before the end of the week putting a degree of urgency underlying the whole film. The story which thematically echoes the original is quite simple with, perhaps, a somewhat predictable ending. The power of the original film was the mixture of joy and pathos which thankfully returns here. The ending is a bit odd as the cast just trundle off into the sunset without much of a good-bye…but otherwise the story is quite good.

As might be expected there are some cameos here from the original cast including Dick van Dyle as Mr. Dawes, Jr. but otherwise the cast is all new but with some welcome faces including Angela Lansbury in fine singing voice as the balloon lady, Meryl Streep as Topsy, the confused fixer, Colin Firth as William Weatherall Wilkins, and, of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda as lamplighter Jack stepping into the shoes left by Van Dyke in the first film. This talent quality no doubt significantly contributes to the final product which looks and sounds amazing. There are several animated sequences that keep to the spirit of the original as well as others that perhaps stray a bit further including a bit of a slightly risque number by Mary in the “Royal Doulton Music Hall” sequence.

Some have complained the music is not a shade on the original which is probably true but there are a few ear worms including “A Cover is Not the Book” and “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (the requisite big number with the lamplighters) which generally entertain.

“Mary Poppins Returns” is significantly overshadowed by the magnificence of the original which is a shame as it is quite a good film in it's own right but with a darker plot and new sensibilities. I found the film generally quite enjoyable and refreshingly different.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2022-01-02

Directed by: Rob Marshall

Studio: Lucamar Productions

Year: 2018

Length: 130 minutes

Genre: Musical

Other reviewed films by Rob Marshall: