Mary Poppins Returns Review
A mostly heart-warming, toe-tapping, smile-inducing cheese-fest that’s come at the perfect (practically in every way) time
More than just the one spoonful of sugar – everyone’s favourite flying nanny returns with plenty of magic and nostalgia in tow.Here we are again, at Did-We-Really-Need-Another-Sequel/Remake Street. It’s nice to be back. Disney is apparently going through what can only be described as some sort of existential crisis, churning out remakes/reboots/sequels with alacrity.
In the end though, however much we really didn’t need anyone messing with the sacred covenant that was the original Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins Returns turns out to be a mostly heart-warming, toe-tapping, smile-inducing cheese-fest that’s come at the perfect (practically in every way) time.
The charm of Blunt’s performance makes it easy for the audience to fully suspend disbelief and plunge head first into Poppins’ world.
It’s been about 20 years since the events of the first film, and everyone’s aged the expected amount except our titular heroine (this time played by Emily Blunt). Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are grown adults with grown up problems, and there’s no sign of Dick Van Dyke’s Bert, though he’s ably replaced in the Cockney-accent stakes by Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a lamplighter who also conveniently comes with a pack of musically-gifted co-workers (‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’ is unquestionably one of the major highlights of the film).
Michael is recently widowed, and in addition to grieving and taking care of his children (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson), is having to fight tooth and nail to save the family home on Cherry Tree Lane from the clutches of the amiably dastardly bank manager (Colin Firth). Jane, meanwhile, has taken up the political mantle from her mother, and spends her time fighting for workers’ rights and more besides. There are a few absolutely wonderful cameos here, though it’s well worth not spoiling at least one of them for yourself ahead of time.
Blunt is marvellous in the lead role, switching up her usual dramatic performances for a show of incredible musical talent. Mary Poppins arrives in customary fashion just in time to step in as Michael repeats his father’s mistakes and begins to lovingly neglect his kids. What follows is the expected blend of playful sternness, whimsical animated scenes and plenty of songs – though truthfully they’re mostly unmemorable, with very few numbers coming close to challenging anything from the 1964 soundtrack; ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’ and ‘A Cover is Not the Book’ bear a relisten or two, though.
Perhaps it’s the festive season, or perhaps it’s because we’ve all got more than enough stress going on these days, but it's oh so easy to look past the flaws of Mary Poppins Returns. The music’s not up to much, the non-stop cheeriness is perhaps a little cloying at times, and it could be argued that the screenplay and almost shot-for-shot re-enactment leans a little too much on referencing the 1964 film at times. But each time a downside threatens to rear its head, you’re swept away into a wonderfully executed animation sequence or captivated by Blunt’s stern-yet-smiling demeanour. It’s a magical concept, of course, but director Rob Marshall harnesses the charm of Blunt’s performance, the nostalgia of the setting and makes it easy for the audience to fully suspend disbelief and plunge head first into Poppins’ world.
A splendid choice for a family afternoon at the cinema, this is an eminently likeable and delightfully nostalgic piece of cinema.
As always, Sandy Powell’s costumes are a triumph, and exquisite production design by John Myhre is a treat for the eye and the soul. A splendid choice for a family afternoon at the multiplex, this is an eminently likeable and delightfully nostalgic piece of cinema that, while not offering much in the way of the iconic tunes of its predecessor, reminds us of the magic of Disney and just how much fun films can be.
Incredibly cheery and sweet (it’s more than a spoonful of sugar – it’s a diabetic’s worst nightmare), Mary Poppins Returns is the perfect antidote for the winter blues. For those of us who grew up watching Julie Andrews waltz with animated penguins this is a lovely piece of nostalgia, while this film’s imagination and heart suggest youngsters at the cinema this winter might find themselves thinking fondly of Blunt’s Poppins in years to come. It’s maybe not quite supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but it’s pretty super.
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