The magical and mysterious Mary Poppins is back again in London to help out the Banks family in Mary Poppins Returns, a new sequel from Walt Disney Pictures.
Yes, this film is a sequel to, not a remake of, the classic 1964 film which starred Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, et al. Author P.L. Travers wrote eight Mary Poppins books, so it’s not like it’s a totally out-there idea to do a sequel, even if it’s been over 50 years since the first film was released. However, with the current remake-happy management team running the Walt Disney Studios, a sequel originally sounded like a creatively bereft idea, at least to me. The 1964 film is such an iconic work that I felt this possibly could be a very misguided, reductive, and disastrous project.
However, now that I’ve seen the film, I have put those worrisome thoughts to rest because this sequel is pure delight. It’s definitely an homage to the 1964 original (I believe the filmmakers have been referring to this new film as a “love letter” to the original), but it also stands on its own as a high quality, highly entertaining, and highly emotional (in a good way) classic Hollywood musical.
Here’s a fun little featurette about the film:
The story picks up 25 years after the original. Jane and Michael Banks have grown up. Michael (played by Ben Whishaw) is, sadly, a widower who is raising his three children on his own and has also fallen on hard financial times. Jane (played by Emily Mortimer) is an activist (taking after her mother) and a devoted sister and aunt, but the family is still in a bit of a crisis.
Enter Mary Poppins (wonderfully played by Emily Blunt), who flies back in to 17 Cherry Tree Lane to get the Banks family back on track in her own unique and enchanting way. Also along for the ride is Jack the lamplighter (or “leery”; expertly played by Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda) in the sidekick role similar to Dick Van Dyke’s Bert in the original.
The entire cast is stellar. It also includes Julie Waters as the Banks’ family maid, Colin Firth as president of the bank where Mr. Banks used to work and where Michael Banks is currently employed, Meryl Streep as Mary Poppins’ cousin Topsy, Angela Lansbury as the balloon lady, and even Dick Van Dyke himself shows up in a brief but meaningful cameo.
Along with the great cast, the film’s creative team are the ones who really brought this positive and whimsical film to life. Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods) along with the terrific songwriting team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman (Hairspray) have been able to create a new film in which everything old is new again and which, like the original, doesn’t have a snarky or cynical bone in it.
Take your family and friends over the Christmas holiday to experience this charming, cathartic, and optimistic film together.
Mary Poppins Returns is rated PG by the MPAA for “some mild thematic elements and brief action.”
My score: 5 out of 5 stars
And as an added bonus, here are a couple of fantastic posters for the film.