Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Director: Rob Marshall
Screenwriter: David Magee
Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth
Rob Marshall’s Disney-made, 54 years in the making Mary Poppins sequel promised to reignite the spark of magic and mischief first put to screen by Robert Stevenson in 1964 through an Emily Blunt fronted “many years later” follow up on the lives of the original film’s central Banks children. Through its magic bag sized portion of innocence, love and joy, Mary Poppins Returns was able to relight the fire that was once so absolutely indelible to our childhoods, making for one of the best unneeded sequels to a children’s classic yet put to screen in this most recent spate of Disney remakes, reboots and re-imaginings.
The timely release of this happiness inducing sequel in the midst of political disarray and uncertainty, with so much of our culture suffocated by fear mongering and the seemingly never ending cycle of tragedy on the news, has proven to be a much needed one. Returns is just a movie but it acts as a catharsis to the atrocities of our current world situation, wrapping us up in a bubble bath and encouraging us to just escape for two hours and a bit. We all need that sometimes, right?
The world of “somewhere in the past” London is not too dissimilar to our own and the struggles of the characters are relatable to most of us, but the film wraps all of this conceivable landscape in an overarching message of never forgetting the purity, acceptance, creativity, joy and love we each feel in our childhoods, the delivery of such a message being as gleeful and nostalgia-inducing as it gets. In the world of Mary Poppins, no act of kindness is forgotten, no piece of art is worthless, no job is menial, no presence is invisible, and over the course of the movie this leaves you awash with the hopes and dreams you thought you’d left in your past. As a character from the film says… “it’s a shame the adults will forget about all of this by tomorrow”.
Wrestling with a legacy about as iconic as anyone’s in cinema history was Emily Blunt in the lead role, the Briton offering a performance that was absolutely pitch perfect to the cheekiness of Julie Andrews’ original and a true joy to behold in all aspects of performance from the stern upper lip to the song and dance numbers – people will have their favourites, and it’ll be hard for anyone who saw Mary Poppins during childhood to find any greater love for Blunt than they did for Andrews, but Blunt was fantastic nonetheless. The children were also presented so well that they rarely passed into the realm of being obnoxious (as can often be the case with child performances), while Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Ben Whishaw and particularly Lin-Manuel Miranda each gifted their own points of brilliance to the romanticised fantasy, elevating the romantic element of the film’s almost “life-in-retrospect” presentation even further.
It may run a bit long and some of the sequences may feel a little dragged out – it’s even possible to point fingers at some of the visual effects – but with further cameos worthy of a small cheer as well as some excellent new, original songs (in the “old” style, of course), and even a return for classic 2D Disney animation, Mary Poppins Returns delivers the goods so far as a nostalgia sequel goes, even managing to point a finger at you to rediscover the same magic that the film managed to do.
So grab your oversized bag, your bubble bath and your favourite umbrella, take Mary Poppins by the hand and drift away into another place for two hours of your life, because Mary Poppins Returns is like happiness in a bottle, the best temporary antidote to our dark and twisted times.