By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by Disney©
It was described as the Crown Jewel of Disney’s Empire and added five Academy Awards to his already expanding accolades, and as 1964 became history, Mary Poppins still is regarded as close to practically perfect in every way a movie can be. So, after 55 years many were concerned when Disney announced the long-awaited sequel, Mary Poppins Returns.
But perhaps what is most surprising is that it has taken this long for, arguably the World’s most beloved Nanny to fly back onto the silver-screen. Afterall, P. L. Travers wrote eight books about Mary so it’s a wonder why Disney have waited until now.
Whilst audiences have had to wait 55 years for the sequel, in the world of the Banks’ children, Mary (Emily Blunt) returns after 20 in a bid to help Michael (Ben Wishaw), who is now a widowed father of three and, due to spiralling debts, risks losing the family home.
What is obvious from the moment the titles roll, is this isn’t a remake as many suspected when the project was first announced. It is a fully-fledged sequel, and whilst there are homages to the original, it doesn’t delve into a sycophantic tribute. Director, Rob Marshall has managed to create a Mary Poppins movie which keeps the iconic identity that the hardcore fans will love, but equally captures a new essence that brings something different than before.
Partly this is due to Emily Blunt’s impressive turn as the iconic titular character. Her version of Poppins is vastly different from Julie Andrew’s portrayal. The magic is still there, the prim and proper ideology that is forever synonymous with the character remains, yet Blunt adds a new-found abruptness, and to an extent, rudeness which is more comical than cruel.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is Jack, this generations chimney sweep and partner to Mary Poppins who joins in on the many adventures that take place. He is charming in the role, so much so that you easily forgive him for the somewhat disjointed cockney accent.
Rounding out the cast is a striking cacophony of actors including, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury and most importantly, Dick Van Dyke. The latter provides one of the highlights of the whole film that doesn’t fail to put a smile on your face.
At its foundation this is the success of Mary Poppins Returns, it makes you smile. It doesn’t profess or patronise; its joyful theme isn’t sickly but heart-warming. These joyful elements emerge through the mixture of live-action and animation, reintroducing the famous ‘four penguins’ which stole audience’s heart’s 55 years ago.
But with the reintroduction of familiar foundations of the Poppins’ universe, Marshall takes a surprising risk which pays off ten-fold. In a movie which is easily recognisable for its music, which literally lasts a lifetime, Mary Poppins Returns purposefully deviates away from this. So don’t expect some of the more iconic songs, instead prepare for new ones to steal your heart which are sprinkled with the Disney magic.
This reinvention of both music and tone are the perfect mix for the Disney classic and create a sequel that isn’t a cheap knockoff of a movie, with which the title alone will drive audiences into theatres across the Globe. Marshall, along with David Magee’s charming script, have shaped a Mary Poppins sequel that, although doesn’t live up to the original, never attempts to. Instead, Mary Poppins Returns takes the iconic fundamentals of Walt’s Crown Jewel and builds upon them, bringing them to a new audience whilst satisfying the old one. It is a beautifully crafted piece of cinema that warms the heart and brings joy through every scene.
It may have taken 55 years for Mary to return to all our lives, but with her latest outing it is obvious her magic never left us.