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Mary Poppins Returns

In 1964, the groundbreaking MARY POPPINS was revolutionary. Walt Disney’s seamless fusion of live-action and animation propelled Julie Andrews to the Best Actress Oscar, and the film itself took home statuettes for Best Editing and Best Visual Effects. Based on a series of popular books, it seemed natural that audiences would eventually get a sequel. But, with each decade that passed, the likelihood of a follow-up grew evermore distant.

Now, here we are, 54 years (!) after Dick Van Dyke and Andrews sang and danced their way through “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and director Rob Marshall has finally delivered the sequel that generations have been hoping for. While I was full of reservations, and fearful that MARY POPPINS RETURNS would be as hollow and disappointing as Sam Raimi’s OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, I was delighted with the way this POPPINS panned out.

The film opens with lamp lighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) singing about the lovely London skies, and ends his pleasant tune at the old Banks home. Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now adults and Michael is the father of three young
children; Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson.) His wife had passed away within the year, and now Michael must not only raise the
youngsters without a mother, but must earn the wages to do so. Despite his best
intentions, some of his responsibilities have fallen by the wayside, including keeping up with his mortgage payments. As a result, the bank is set to repossess the home unless Michael can find a way to pay off the entirety of the loan within a few days time. Michael sees the task as impossible until he remembers that his father had owned shares in the bank itself, shares that would allow him to meet his loan obligations. Unfortunately, he has no idea where they could be. He searches fruitlessly throughout the home
(uncovering a number of wonderful cinematic Easter eggs along the way) and then pleads his case with Mr. Dawes (Colin Firth) at the bank itself. Dawes puts on a friendly face, and proclaims that he will do everything to help. Despite these assurances, we watch him double-cross the Banks’ family by burning the proof that existed within the pages of the bank’s ledger.

As Michael and Jane frantically attempt to discover where their father had hidden the documentation that would result in their salvation, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt)
reemerges from the clouds, just as she had done years before. She believes that the trio of Banks children (and perhaps Michael, himself) could use her help, and quicker than you can say “spit spot,” she integrates herself into their lives, and introduces the kids to the magic and wonderment that Michael and Jane had experienced back in their impressionable days.

The original MARY POPPINS is one of the most beloved family films of all time, and as a result, it’s hard to imagine that any attempt at a sequel could compare to the beloved  ‘64 masterpiece. And, while Marshall’s film can’t soar to the same heights as its forebear, it is a lively, jubilant and satisfying sequel that will illicit a smile from even the most cynical of viewer. Part of this can be attributed to Marshall’s deft direction. The production value is vibrant and beautiful, and the film’s musical numbers will get your toes tapping and your head bobbing. This is particularly true of the “A Cover is Not the Book” number that is a throwback to the animation/live-action sequence that took place within the chalk paintings of the original. This time around, Poppins, Jack and the children are within the confines of a ceramic bowl, and easily stands as the highlight of the entire feature. 

Though Marshall’s direction plays a large part in the film’s success, the reason MARY POPPINS RETURNS emerges as a memorable, must-see sequel is because of the
remarkably talented Emily Blunt. Having already delivered one top-notch turn this year in A QUIET PLACE, her ability to switch gears and step into the formidable shoes of one of the most beloved characters in the history of the medium is remarkable. Finding the perfect blend of tongue-in-cheek discipline and snarky sincerity, magic follows her
wherever she goes. She teaches the Banks children to allow their imagination and
predisposition for wonderment to overshadow the sorrow they feel from losing their mother.

Although MARY POPPINS RETURNS is unlikely to be remembered with the same
reverence as its predecessor, it finds a way to emerge as one of the better family films of the year, and will likely introduce a whole new generation to Mary Poppins and her whimsical form of magic.



RUN TIME: 2h 10min

GENRE: Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical

STARRING: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw

DIRECTORs: Rob Marshall

Writers: David Magee, Rob Marshall, John DeLuca

A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to attend this month’s film.

Brian Miller