Mary Poppins Returns is a strong revival of the character and her world. While it doesn’t quite capture the magic of the 1954 original, it satisfyingly delivers on a heartwarming and nostalgic experience for fans new and old.
1964’s Mary Poppins was an instant classic for Disney. Unforgettable musical numbers, strong acting and an unmistakable charm guided that film to leave a hallmark legacy for the studio. The original, led by Julie Andrews, won the hearts of families at the time and continues to have a strong presence today. In an age where reboots, remakes and sequels are in abundance, Mary Poppins Returns delivers but tends to play it very safe as well. Disney is currently in a revival phase for their films. Many of their animated properties are seeing live action adaptions like Aladdin and The Lion King, after the success of films like The Jungle Book. From a surface level, Mary Poppins Returns is just that, a way to bring audiences back to the seats to relieve an experience from the past. Trying to recapture the magic of a film 54 years after its original debut is a tough task. Fortunately, Mary Poppins Returns is up to the task with an incredible lead actress in Emily Blunt.
The best casting in the film and practically the perfect choice for the role, Blunt plays the role with poise, charisma and a sense of wonder. For many, it is impossible to recreate what Julie Andrews brought to the role of Poppins. Despite that, Emily Blunt not only pays tribute to Andrews’ performance, but brings her own flair to the character as well. Blunt’s version of Poppins is a bit more unforgiving and a little edgier than she was 54 years ago. The character is still as magical as ever and will have audiences falling in love with her like they did with Andrews. At her core, Mary Poppins is about unlocking your imagination and wonder. She comes when she is needed and leaves when her job is done. Emily Blunt is the highlight of this film and her acting, singing and magical charm perfectly pays tribute to the character while keeping her just as believable in 2018 as she was in 1964.
“She’s weird,” Blunt laughs. “And sort of batty. Really funny. Just so funny. And incredibly rude and acerbic. I just found her eccentricity just a delight. She is so enigmatic. She is mysterious. She doesn’t reveal her inner workings to anybody, which I find really intriguing and sort of delicious.”
Emily Blunt on Marry Poppins
Mary Poppins Returns continues the story of the Banks family. Set 20 years after the original film, both Micheal and Jane are grown up. With a few Christopher Robin vibes embedded in, both Banks children have lost their sense of wonder and imagination due to a rough adulthood. This is particularly true for Micheal Banks, as he and his family are the primary focus of the film. His children, Annabel, John, and Georgie take the role their respective parents had in the original and follow Mary Poppins along a colorful journey, multiple musical numbers and a heartwarming message. In many ways, Mary Poppins Returns is a a beat for beat remake of the original, but in sequel format. The closest comparison I can make to the film is how Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a spiritual remake of 1977’s Star Wars. Much like the original Mary Poppins, the highlight of this film comes with its musical numbers. Here, Lin-Manuel Miranda shines as the character of Jack. Putting his broadway experience to good use, he completely steals the show when his time comes and provides some of the best choreography the film had to offer.
My gripes with this film are limited but still present through the film. The feeling that this film is a simple nostalgia trip for fans looms over the film. A lot of the underlying themes, character dynamics and interactions are directly pulled from the original. While Mary Poppins Returns does a better job at rehashing a film’s story than Superman Returns, there are still similarities between the two in their execution. The key word is safe. This Mary Poppins film felt extremely safe, the director played within a very limited sandbox and executed the film only up to the point of being satisfactory. If it wasn’t for Emily Blunt’s fantastic performance as Mary or Lin-Manuel Miranda imprint on the film, it could have suffered more. Despite this, the film still does a solid job at delivering an authentic Mary Poppins experience.
Overall, Mary Poppins Returns is a heartwarming, magical and nostalgic experience for fans of the original and newcomers to the character. Emily Blunt fits the role of Mary Poppins to perfection and wonderfully pays tribute to Julie Andrews’ performance while also bringing a fresh and exciting edge to the iconic character. While an overreliance to stay true to the 1954 classic hindered its ability to truly excel, the film still does a satisfactory job to capture the magic. A broadway feel, catchy musical numbers, a nostalgic backdrop and excellent casting makes Mary Poppins Returns a familiar and welcome visit back to her magical world.