Review: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

To say I was looking forward to this film is a bit of an understatement; to say that I was apprehensive, is even more so.

If you have read my thoughts on Ralph Breaks The Internet then you will already know that sometimes a great film needs to be left well alone. When that film has had 54 years (!!) to establish itself as a national treasure, you either need to be very brave, or very stupid, to try and take it on.

Cue: director Rob Marshall who, in my opinion, is not only super brave but a bone-fide genius. This film is practically perfect in every way.

Movie still showing Mary Poppins and Co. riding a bicycle.
L-R Emily Mortimer, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, Julie Walters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Joel Dawson & Emily Bunt

25 years after the events of the original film, we return to No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane in the middle of ‘The Great Slump’, where young Jane and Michael Banks are all grown up. Michael is now the head of the family, recently widowed, and struggling to keep the roof over the heads of himself and his three children; Anabel, John and Georgie.

Just a quick visit from the lawyers, clear-out of the attic and a runaway kite later (yes, the kite); Mary Poppins appears and in her own words, “Away we go.”

The Good

Emily Blunt was absolutely fantastic. At the risk of losing some followers, I will admit that I actually prefer this portrayal of Poppins. Rather than trying too hard to follow Julie Andrew’s example, Blunt took the character and truly made it her own (Jared Leto, take note!).

The brilliant casting choices did not end with Blunt. There were strong performances from all the actors but Meryl Streep in particular, was captivating as Poppins’ eccentric cousin Topsy. As well as having one of the best songs in the film, her ‘condition’ leads us to truly wonder, What happens to Mary every second Tuesday?

Speaking of songs, it would not be a ‘Mary Poppins’ film without a musical number or two and, boy, does this film deliver. Composer Marc Shaiman did an excellent job of creating a whole new set of songs whilst maintaining the spirit of the originals. Whether or not they will have the same staying power remains to be seen, but with the popularity of musicals at the moment it is a strong possibility, as is (I believe) the chance of an Oscar nomination.

It’s not possible to write a review on a Mary Poppins film and not comment on the animated sequence, which was brilliant. Director Rob Marshall insisted on sticking to the traditional hand-drawn animation rather than using CGI and it looks amazing. As well as being reminiscent of the original film, there was very much a Bedknobs and Broomsticks vibe, I even caught myself humming the tune ‘Beautiful Briny’ at one point.

The Bad

While there is a bit more of a solid plot in this film, the way the story flows is pretty much identical to the first film. If you are familiar with the original, there will be no surprises. Although it is technically a sequel, it has the feel of a remake.

So, as you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this film but as always, don’t take my word for it. Go and see it for yourself and let me know what you think. Go on. Spit Spot.

Still showing Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda performing their musical number, 'The cover is not the book'.
‘The Cover is not the Book‘ musical number

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