Decades after her original visit, the famed musical and magical nanny returns to help the Banks family once again. Set in 1930s England, the Banks’ family home is threatened unless proof of an inherited investment can be found that will save their home from foreclosure and repossession. The now grown Banks children Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are desperate to find the deed to fend off Michael’s sneaky boss (Colin Firth). While the three young children Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) all try to cheer up Michael since the family is still reeling from the death of their mother.
Just as all looks bleak, the ever charming Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) invites herself in much as she does in the original, to brightens the children’s day while hiding their imaginative adventures from their saddened father. In an attempt to recreate the loved Dick Van Dyke/Bert the chimney-sweep, Disney introduces Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a jolly sidekick who is a part of an army of lamplighters called leeries. This time, the charismatic city worker joins Mary and the three Banks children on a few whimsical and tangential musical adventures before the house is lost.
Attempting to remake the classic and beloved 1964 masterpiece would have been a near impossible and fruitless task for Disney. The wise decision to further the characters in the shape of a sequel has produced an amusing family musical that while it never reaches the stupefaction or wonderment of the original, is still joyful enough to enchant. Emily Blunt is without a doubt one of the best and most likeable actresses working today. A charmingly perfect choice for a role so impeccably brought to life by Julie Andrews. Emily Blunt’s Mary is a lot sassier and (ahem) blunt then Andrews. However, it’s her infectious British sophistication and magical charm that humbly makes the film. Blunt is magical in a turn that is one of the best performances in a musical for years. Ben Whishaw too is fantastic, however there is a sense that he isn’t at the point in his career to be playing roles of this patriarchal manner, he is far more interesting and talented then that. Lin-Manuel Miranda is good; however his character is needless and one feels he takes away from precious screen and song time – that should’ve been given to Mary Poppins. Frankly it teeters on irritating.
The songs are merry and cheerful, however they never reach the earworm nature or toe tapping infection of the original. They tend to waffle on with a ever lingering sound of a reprisal making the numbers rather hard to differentiate. However the bath time “Imagine that” number is a sweet natured highlight of the film. Also Meryl Streep and her delightfully thick-accented one scene as Mary’s cousin is topsy turvy terrific.
The major issue with Mary Poppins Returns is there is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly not enough Mary Poppins. Sadly, you are left wanting more. She is even more an enigma this time. The story and its stakes get slightly too big, it all feels a little much. Whereas in Mary Poppins it was light and springy, this feels messily large in an attempt to up the ante for modern audiences. Too many spoonfuls of sugar don’t always help the medicine go down. Mary Poppins and her return are a delight, while its flawed and makes one reminisce for the original, it’s an amusing and enchanting umbrella ride that has the few sprinkles of magic to entertain.
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