Comedy Family

Review: While Not Practically Perfect in Every Way, ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is an Enchanting Sequel

December 19, 2018Sara Clements

In the quest to capture the essence of its predecessor, the visionaries behind Mary Poppins' return to Cherry Tree Lane stray on the familiar in a sequel that squanders the potential for more originality. But while Mary Poppins Returns does hit similar beats, the story remains a heartfelt reminder to embrace the magic that surrounds us.

The film opens with a song from Lin-Manuel Miranda who plays Jack, Mary Poppins' friend and a character who is basically Dick Van Dyke's Bert if he was a cockney lamplighter instead of a cockney chimney sweep. Jack takes the audience on a ride to a familiar setting. It's been around 20 years since Mary Poppins first arrived at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, and not much has changed. Admiral Boom still marks the hour with a canon and the Banks household is still as chaotic as ever.

Just like in the original, there's a whole lot of banking. Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, while not getting its own song this time, drives the narrative's conflict, as its president, Mr. Wilkins (Colin Firth, who plays him devilishly well), wants to repossess the Banks' home. The tuppence Michael gave his father when he was a boy has amounted to quite a sum in shares at the bank, and, with the help of his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer), Michael has until Friday at midnight to find the certificate of shares to pay off the loan. Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson are adorable as the Banks children Anabel, John and Georgie. And the story revolves around the adventures and magic Mary Poppins introduces to these children, as she helps them on their family's search for a solution.

While on the surface, it may have seemed that Mary Poppins' purpose in the original movie was to help care for the Banks children, but as it was revealed in Saving Mr. Banks, she was sent to help bring magic back into Mr. Banks' life and make him realize that family is more important than work. Here, her motivation remains the same, but this time, she has returned to bring magic back into the life of Michael Banks' (Ben Whishaw), who, due to a sudden loss, has begun to dismiss every spectacular thing that happened in that life-changing first visit.

Though it may not be "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," the music delivered by Marc Shaiman is entertaining enough, displaying the singing and dancing prowess of the cast while incorporating some wonderful nods to Robert Stevenson's musical that won't go unnoticed by fans. Some lines spoken by Emily Blunt's Mary are even identical to those of Julie Andrews. "Michael, we are still not a codfish" and "Jane Banks, still rather inclined to giggle, I see" make for some good laughs, and little touches like the handmade kite and a bird lady sleeping on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral feed the nostalgia. Yet, the biggest resemblance is the narrative itself, which is almost too similar, as plot points and musical numbers are borderline identical.

Crafting a sequel to such a beloved film seems like an almost insurmountable feat, but the classic Disney charm is captured with the same degree of authenticity and uniqueness that made its predecessor so special. Most importantly, Emily Blunt embodies Mary Poppins in the most delightful way. Her stubbornness, matter-of-factness and modest narcissism are still present in the character's gracefully magical package. And Blunt proves she can sing and dance just like the best of them.

Mary Poppins Returns releases December 19th, 2018 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for some mild thematic elements and brief action. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 10 min.

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