Practically perfect in… most ways.
Okay, I either have an extremely weak immune system or an allergy to movie theatres, because seeing this was like my fourth time going to review a movie while I was sick as a dog. I sincerely hope you all appreciate what I put myself through to bring you these reviews. Oh, AND I had to sit in the first fucking row for this movie because the whole world decided to see Mary Poppins Returns (2018) on opening day at the earliest showing. Okay, and now that I’ve had my little rant, let’s talk about this movie that was an adorable bucket of fun!
In the long-anticipated sequel to the 1964 classic, Mary Poppins Returns sees the iconic nanny returning to London to help Michael and Jane Banks, now adults, and Michael’s children, as they face the threat of losing their house on Cherry Tree Lane to the bank. On their adventures, Mary teaches the children, Annabel, John, and Georgie, to hold onto the fun and hopefulness of childhood. She even manages to do the same thing for the wayward Michael and Jane.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: Emily Blunt taking over the role of Mary Poppins from the incomparable Julie Andrews. When I first heard of Blunt’s casting, I was really excited. Excited and relieved that they had found someone so perfect for the part. Not only am I a huge fan, but I feel like outside of archival footage, Blunt really is the only one who could take over the legendary role from Andrews. Blunt doesn’t copy or rip-off Andrews’ performance, but you can tell her spin on the character is inspired by Andrews and it works. Blunt masterfully conveys the signature wit and sass of Mary Poppins, while adding a comedic domineering aura to everything she does. I’ll just go ahead and say it: Blunt was perfect. I’d liken Blunt’s performance to when new actors take on superhero roles: familiar and true to character, but with a fresh new flare.
Sharing the screen with Blunt is Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, a lamplighter whose character is an homage to Bert from the 1964 original. So, confession, I don’t know anything about “Hamilton” or Lin-Manuel Miranda for that matter. I know that they’re both cultural phenomena and that I’m crucifying myself for saying this, but I found Miranda’s presence unnecessary and slightly annoying. Whenever Jack was onscreen, I just wanted him to go away. Besides being a fun homage to Bert, Jack’s character really isn’t needed. I imagine the studio cast Miranda thinking him to be the modern-day Dick Van Dyke, but he’s no Dick Van Dyke. Miranda’s performance feels artificial, like a children’s TV host who’s trying too hard, while Van Dyke was effortlessly animated and charming. Maybe I shouldn’t be comparing, but the characters are so similar, the movie pretty much forces you to. Speaking of, you’d think doing a Mary Poppins movie in the 2010s would be an excuse to kill off the cockney accent, but no, the terrible homage stays. Are there seriously no English actors who can sing and dance? We’re still outsourcing the cockney accent to actors who literally can’t do it? Unbelievable.
Look, making the music for Mary Poppins Returns was always going to be an uphill battle. Crafting follow-ups to timeless hits like “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” is a near-impossible task and while the movie tries its best, the songs ended up being uninspired and unmemorable. None of the songs are nauseatingly-terrible to listen to, don’t get me wrong. It’s just, they aren’t as magical, endearing, or cheerful as the original soundtrack. That being said, Blunt’s big solo, “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” is a gorgeous and emotional tune that is hands down the best song in the movie. Although, I did kind of enjoy the comical and cartoon-like, “Turning Turtle,” sung by Meryl Streep. Yeah, she’s in this movie too. Actually, with the casting of herself, Colin Firth, and Julie Walters, this movie really should have been called, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, AGAIN!
“Homage” is the perfect word to sum up this movie. From the beautiful opening credits that’ll bring you straight back to your childhood, to the “Step in Time” clone, “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” Mary Poppins Returns is a love letter to its namesake. While still honouring all that fans love, the sequel succeeds in taking silly things from the first movie, like the house shaking after the cannon blast, and grounding them in a realistic and modern way. Apart from new characters like Jack and Topsy being imitations of Bert and Uncle Albert respectively, the grandest homage is the animated sequence where Mary and Jack take the new generation of Banks children into an antique china bowl their mother left them. Not only is it a fun callback to one of the original movie’s most memorable scenes, but the animation is pure Disney magic at its finest. I like the trend of 3D animation the studio is going with these days, but seeing this gorgeously animated sequence really made me yearn for the days of 2D Disney animation.
Mary Poppins Returns is a rare kind of sequel. The kind that not only more than pays its respects to the movie that came before it, but builds on its legacy by adding a fresh and exciting chapter to the beloved story. For those worried that this is just a thinly-veiled remake, don’t be. This sequel is more than capable of standing on its own feet, doing its own thing, and winning over its own legion of adoring fans. Lastly, let me leave you this little tidbit that is not a spoiler in the slightest: Dick Van Dyke’s cameo is everything you’d want it to be and more. It’s glorious.
Are you going to see Mary Poppins Returns? Are you a fan of the original movie?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!