For our earlier review of Mary Poppins Returns, click here.
Synopsis: The mysterious Mary Poppins returns to Depression-era London to visit Jane and her brother Michael, now a father of three, and helps them rediscover the joy they knew as children. (Disney)
Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Ben Whishaw
Writer: David Magee
Director: Rob Marshall
Rating: G (Canada)/PG (United States)
Running Time: 131mins
There are not that many iconic Disney characters more iconic than Mary Poppins. The original 1964 film is considered by many as a classic thanks to Julie Andrews’ Oscar-winning performance. In the age of reboots and remakes, Mary Poppins literally returns in Mary Poppins returns. Instead of a remake, this new film serves as a sequel to the original. While whether or not this film needed to be made is debatable, the film itself doesn’t provide much of an argument for either side. With any film like this, comparisons to the original are inevitable, however, purists should not be dissuaded.
This time around, Michael (Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) Banks were facing hard times during Depression-era London. Suffice it to say that Michael and Jane were far removed from when they, as children, had Mary Poppins as a nanny. With Mary Poppins (Blunt) coming back into their lives, they would have to be reminded of what it was like to be a child. The same would be the case for Michael’s children Anabel (Pixie Davis), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson) who had to take care of themselves after losing their mother.
More than anything, this film was pure escapism. In terms of Disney films, let alone children’s films, there’s nothing much new here and that’s fine. From the elaborately constructed musical sequences, some fantastically animated, the obvious lessons were learned but this didn’t make them any less fun to watch as they will surely put a permanent smile on your face. However, one sequence in particular (the one that most people will remember) overstays its welcome and loses its luster as a result. Technically speaking, the film was on point from the colorful set design, the amazing costumes, to the cinematography. While the songs may not be as memorable, the whole experience will surely be despite perhaps being more of the same for some.
The escapism of it all may be one thing but it can’t quite distract from the rest of the story. Michael and Jane, especially Michael who assumed the role of his father from the original. While the children were off having an adventure, he was busy trying to keep it all together. It was a little sad that he kind of got forgotten amongst all the chaos. In addition to Mary Poppins, the kids were joined by a lamp lighter named Jack (Miranda) who shared a history with her and the elder Banks children. Some may argue that he was unnecessary, however, he was a fun addition to the story, adding his own particular energy to the proceedings.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the best part of the film was Blunt’s excellent performance as Poppins. This was her film. She’s definitely no Julie Andrews, nor did she ever need to be, but she still commanded the screen with a fearless performance full of whimsy, personality, and heart. Blunt can also sing. She was so fun to watch that it’s hard to not want more. What more can be said about Miranda? His natural charisma made him fun to watch as Jack despite his questionable accent. He and Blunt had amazing chemistry that the film could have tapped into more than it did. The younger Banks children were good while Whishaw and Mortimer excelled as Michael and Jane despite their characters being a little too constricted.
Overall, this was a good children’s film that may not justify its existence or offer anything new but was pure escapism from start to finish which will put a smile on your face. It may not be quite enough in terms of a story but was fun to watch throughout thanks to plenty of elaborately constructed musical numbers. Though the film was impressive technically speaking, what ties it all together was an excellent performance by Emily Blunt in the title role.