*Do not worry my dearies, this is a non-spoiler review!
Over 50 years after the original graced the screen, Mary Poppins is back to teach a whole new generation, young and old, the importance of family. Much like in the first film, the Banks’ have fallen on hard times and it is up to Mary Poppins to not only help the children find their way but remind the original Banks children to release their inner child once in awhile. Rob Marshall, from Chicago and Into the Woods acclaim, directed this return to the world of Poppins and for the most part I believe he succeeds in creating a worthy successor. The cinematography is stunning and it truly feels like we never left Cherry Tree Lane.
If there were any doubts Emily Blunt could fill the shoes of the legendary Julie Andrews, they are quickly swept away upon hearing her first musical number. Blunt totally embodies the role while still completely making it her own. This is not some cheap impression of Andrews’ Poppins but a respectful homage and spirited new take on the famous British nanny. Blunt brings a stern yet playful mystique to the titular character and infuses her with just the right amount of charm and wit to keep the audience smiling every time she appears on screen. Ben Wishaw and Emily Mortimer play the grown up Michael and Jane Banks. Wishaw is given a bit more to do but both he & Mortimer play their parts perfectly and work well off each other. Michael’s children, played by Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson are little scene stealers and carry the majority of the movie with their believability and childlike wonder. Dawson as little Georgie is the standout of the bunch, particularly whenever he gets a chance to shine with Blunt. Lin-Manuel Miranda rounds out the cast as Jack, sort of the Bert to Blunt’s Mary. Miranda is a great stage actor, most known for his massive success in Hamilton and In the Heights. However, Miranda’s stage presence doesn’t necessarily translate as well onto the silver screen. This being his first major movie, I feel he will improve with time but when comparing him to the shining star that is Emily Blunt, his light doesn’t shine as bright.
The story is simple but a complicated plot is not necessary when there are fun characters and musical numbers to keep you entertained. All of the musical bits are lively and joyous and will have you tapping your toe along with the beat. Although I don’t believe any of the songs rival the original classics, they are still well orchestrated and fit perfectly within the film. As soon as I left the theater I immediately downloaded the soundtrack to listen to on the drive home. The sweet and melancholic The Place Where Lost Things Go is a particular gem to look out for and is the film’s sole Oscar nominated song.
The film hits many of the beats of it’s predecessor but doesn’t feel like a direct copy, rather an updated homage. The, at the time, ground breaking 2D animation is brought back for a stunning musical sequence that takes place in a Royal Doulton bowl that I could have watched forever.
Overall, Mary Poppins Returns is a worthy successor to the 1964 classic that will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Let us hope we don’t have to wait another 50 years to see our favorite nanny once again! Although, with the success of this film and the praise for Blunt’s portrayal, I feel another sequel is not far behind.
**Minor spoiler, if you didn’t watch the trailer**
Be on the look out for some well placed cameos from Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury and the one & only Dick Van Dyke!