Disney’s Academy Award-winning musical, “Mary Poppins,” starring Julie Andrews, Angela Landsbury and Dick Van Dyke, turns 54 this year and what better way to celebrate than by creating a new adventure based on this classic family film?
The magical nanny is back in “Mary Poppins Returns” with Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda stepping in to create an entirely new version of the story, while still maintaining the magic of the music, the dance and, most importantly, the story.
We meet the Banks’ family, who is comprised of two grown children, Michael (Ben Whishaw), and Jane (Emily Mortimer). While their parents have long gone, Michael, a widower, has two astute children who miss the comfort and guidance of their mom.
As Jane and Michael find themselves in a race to fight the bank’s executives from foreclosing on their home, who better than Mary Poppins to float on in to help with these scruffy, but perfectly well-mannered children?
Whether you remember this charming and sweet musical from the ’60s or not, this newest rendition is sure to be a family favorite this holiday season. Luckily, I do remember the ’64 version, and while all the songs are new in this film, a huge smile swept across my face as soon as I heard Jack (Miranda) singing his sunny song and seeing him glide along the cityscape of London, dancing up and down ladders to shine the lanterns.
The film is filled with catchy new tunes and remarkably choreographed dance numbers that would be just as pleasing to see in a live theater production as it is on the screen.
The story is set decades ago and holds on to the classic theme of good versus bad with goodness prevailing. (That’s not a spoiler ... it’s a Disney film, after all.) The children, of course, are much smarter and wiser than we would expect based on their ages, sometimes seeing the world much more clearly than their adult counterparts.
While the adventure continues, the magic of Mary Poppins touches each and every scene. Now, this truly is magical as it is difficult to separate where the computer graphics stop and the live action begins — it is simply mesmerizing. The blending of two worlds, the imaginary (or is it?), and the real, creates yet another story that helps the children understand their own reality and not only sort through their issues, but help solve their problems.
There isn’t a dull moment in this vibrant film as it is perfectly balanced between special effects aka Mary’s magic, the rich and melodic tunes, and the drama. Of course, we expect Miranda’s lyrical voice and ability to dance to shine in this film, and it does, but surprisingly at least to me, is what we hear from Blunt. She is comparable to her predecessor with her confident, clear and strong voice as she melodically envelops your senses.
Together with Miranda, they bring the story of Mary Poppins back for an entirely new generation to know and love. Yes, we adults will melt in our seats as we enjoy every minute of this film as well.
“Mary Poppins Returns” has Disney’s full attention in creating one of the most stunning sets and special effects in memory. Every corner of the screen is filled with striking color, whether it’s animation or in the set design that takes us back to a bygone era. From bathtub sea adventures to china tea pot escapades, we are pulled into a new world that blurs back and forth into animation and reality.
Creating this world is successful thanks to the talents of Blunt and the entire cast. Blunt has become the new Mary Poppins complete with her own personality exuding strength, knowledge, and confidence.
Mortimer and Whishaw have supporting roles and do so beautifully along side the precociously adorable children, Joel Dawson (Georgie), and Pixie Davies (Anabel). Firth comfortably finds his place in becoming the manipulative banker, but it is Meryl Streep that seems to have the most fun in this film as the goofy character of Topsy.
Upside down or right side up, Streep is having a blast and so are we. And wait until you see what Van Dyke can do! It will bring tears to your eyes.
“Mary Poppins Returns” appears at just the right time, of course, filled with love, laughter, adventure, gorgeous songs and dancing. With an extraordinary cast, the creative talents within Disney behind the scenes, and skillful direction, “Mary Poppins Returns” might just be a film that author P.L. Travers would truly have smiled about.