A sequel to Disney’s classic Mary Poppins has been a long time coming – 54 years to be precise – but after watching Emily Blunt sparkle as the titular nanny in Mary Poppins Returns, you’ll wonder whether the long gap between movies was because everyone was just waiting for her to be old enough to perform the role as you can’t imagine anyone else playing it.
In the same year that she gripped audiences with fear in her eyes in the chiller A Quiet Place, here Blunt captures the charm and sensitivity of the world’s most famous nanny in a way that should delight children new to the story and adults who cherished the original as part of their own childhoods.
Of course, 1964’s Mary Poppins starred Julie Andrews as the magical caregiver who changed the life of the Banks’ children in 1910 London. It’s now a couple of decades later, the country is in the grip of the Depression and siblings Michael (Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Mortimer) are all grown up with adult problems – she is campaigning for the poor, while he is trying to bring up three young children alone following the death of his wife. No wonder Mary decides it is time to float back into their lives – on the kite from the first movie, one of many adorable nods to the original – and bring a little sunshine along with her.
Directed by Rob Marshall – who has brought musicals such as Chicago and Into The Woods to the big screen – this stays true to the first Mary Poppins movie by mixing light and dark, happiness and sadness, and live action and animation to tell the story, and it does it in a warm and joyous fashion.
As with the first film, some of the best bits are the animated sequences, and while a trip into a Royal Doulton piece of china isn’t wholly successful (the accompanying song ‘A Cover Is Not The Book’ is the film’s weakest), a bathtub undersea adventure is adorable and terrific fun.
London, too, looks lovely throughout – you’ll get the same warm and fuzzy feeling for the capital as we all did during the Paddington movies – and it is filled with interesting characters, from lamplighter Jack (Miranda, perfect) to bank boss Wilkins (Firth) and Mary’s eccentric cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep). There are familiar characters, too, from the animated penguins (hurrah!) to the Banks’ neighbour Admiral Boom (David Warner), while Angela Lansbury and the original film’s Dick Van Dyke turn up to add an extra bit of gorgeousness (and possibly the reason for that tear escaping from your eye).
It’s all utterly lovely, with all the cast deserving applause for their performances, but praise should also be heaped upon Scott Whitman and Mark Shaiman for their beautiful songs. While children will love the ‘big’ numbers – complete with stunning choreography – such as Miranda’s opening ‘(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky’ and the ensemble’s ‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic’, grown ups will be blinking away those tears again as Ben Whishaw mourns his wife in ‘A Conversation’ and Emily Blunt picks up on the sadness of the Banks’ house in ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go.’
A true family movie, and a special gift too – a sequel that’s as good as the original.
Is Mary Poppins Returns suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Very young children (under 6) may be scared during the scenes where the children are inside the pottery, being chased by animated baddies, but the scene does not last very long.
The song ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’ is quite sad and may upset sensitive children.
The children have lost their mother, which may upset younger viewers.
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