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Mary Poppins Returns – Movie Review

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Mary Poppins Returns – Movie Review

Rating: A (Fantastic)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Mary Poppins is one of the most important films in the Disney catalogue, a triumph of music, animation and sincerity. To make a sequel many years later is quite the feat and thankfully, Rob Marshall has pulled it off magnificently. From start to finish, Mary Poppins Returns feels like an old-school Disney feature and classic musical to the point of even including an overture over the opening titles. Those looking for old-fashioned and good hearted whimsy will absolutely find it here, as aided by a wonderful collection of songs and an excellent lead performance from Emily Blunt. It’s hard to imagine anyone taking over the role after Julie Andrews and Blunt more than proves a worthy successor.

Marshall’s intentions are clear from the first scene, where it feels like we’re watching a Broadway musical as characters make their entrances. It doesn’t take long to transport the viewer back to Cherry Tree Lane and understand the new troubles facing the Banks Family. When Mary Poppins makes her grand entrance via kite, that’s the moment one can breathe a sigh of relief as Blunt and the filmmakers nail her personality to a tee. They have even incorporated a few more character traits from Travers’s original book and yet, this still very much feels like the same nanny who showed up in the Banks’ lives in the first movie. Her no-nonsense remarks, now devised by screenwriter David Magee, are perfectly delivered by Blunt.

Mary Poppins Returns is chock-full of musical numbers, all with the difficult task of being compared to the Sherman Brothers’ classic tunes. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have written a delightful soundtrack, full of memorable and toe-tapping songs. The stand-out is “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”, with Lin-Manuel Miranda leading a gang of dancing lamp lighters. There’s a wonderful energy to the number, along with some quick tongued wordsmith. Miranda, following in Dick van Dyke’s footsteps and putting on an over-the-top Cockney accent, brings an incredible amount of charm to the role of Jack the lamp lighter and fits right at home in the world of Mary Poppins.

The filmmakers have even elected to include a hand-drawn animated sequence and it’s a treat to watch that beautiful pencil-and-paper animation on the big screen. Duncan Studio captures the Xerox look that characterized the 1960s era of Disney animation, with the human actors well integrated into this porcelain painted world. One of the other big show stopping songs “A Cover Is Not the Book” makes its appearance in this section. Rob Marshall also nails the sentimental and emotional moments, as there is an enormous amount of sympathy for the Banks Family and the problems they face here. While Mary Poppins Returns does repeat a number of story elements from its predecessor, it does find a new motivation for the grown-up Michael Banks and it’s a heartbreaking one.

There’s a refreshingly uncynical approach to this sequel, as Mary Poppins Returns celebrates spreading positivity over negativity. Rob Marshall and his team show an incredible understanding for why Robert Stevenson’s 1964 musical classic continues to hold up as a magnificent piece of entertainment almost 55 years later. One can even listen to the new songs side by side with the original melodies and they wouldn’t look out of place. With Emily Blunt perfectly filling Julie Andrews’s shoes and the rest of the ensemble more than doing their part, everyone is at the top of their game in Mary Poppins Returns. It will be tricky not to walk out of this movie without a spring in one’s step.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison