Mary Poppins is perfectly imperfect in every way. Following the 1964 classic starring the amazing Julie Andrews isn’t easy, but Disney did it. That’s why for many of us who grew up with the Julie Andrews version Mary Poppins Returns might be a miss more than a hit, but for those who accept that it’s a different time and a brand new story, still loosely based on the P.L. Travers books of course, then the journey the movie takes us on is one any musical theatre lover will enjoy.
The film starts with no other than the fantastic Lin Manuel Miranda taking us through the city of London, he, of course, plays Jack, who once helped our favorite Chimney Sweep as a young lad. Now Jack has taken on the job as a lamplighter who still has a boyish wonder to him, which we honestly loved, but then again we’re biased because we love Lin Manuel Miranda and his singing abilities which the film didn’t bow out of using though the dancing was definitely new to him, we think he did alright.
Next we get to visit Jane and Michael played by Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw, who are now older, frazzled and with their own challenges in life so much so that Michaels challenge is really the driving force behind the entire plot of this movie and that’s really where the movie diverts from the original and even the books.
Once we know the issues Michael is facing it doesn’t take long for Mary Poppins, played by Emily Blunt, to show up just when you need her and we will say she plays a fantastic almost protagonist because she’s the hero, but she isn’t she’s more like the white light that guides the way and when you see her you know that everything will be okay and you’ll definitely be singing along even if you have to say goodbye to her in the end. As well she wastes no time getting into her magical ways and it’s off to fantastic lands we go almost immediately and not without drama and that’s where the strangeness comes in.
The strangeness throws back to the books and the first movie, if you recall the original didn’t have a antagonist so to say it was very much about a father needing to connect to his children and Mary Poppins making that happen while also helping the children grow and learn, but in Mary Poppins Returns we don’t have that as much as we do have the main antagonist played by the wolfish Colin Firth who will go about his ways to make what he can during the London Slump in the 1930s. This alone may irk some viewers along with very short-lived cameos by the always amazing Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, and Angela Lansbury which really seems a shame since they all have amazing acting abilities it kind of just felt like fodder for them to be in this either that or they just were huge fans of the original we’re really unsure and the movie had moments of slumps where they really could have used their talents.
But in between the slumps of the movie you do get some magical theatre-esque moments including a circus (taken from what we’re guessing is the 3rd book) and an incredible dance number by our lamplighters and a fantastically choreographed piece with Meryl Streep that takes it all very topsy-turvy. All of this is accompanied by musical numbers that will make you think back to the original sure we don’t get a “Chim-Chimney” or “Supercalifragilicious” but “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky and “Nowhere to Go But Up” and “Trip a Little Light” are all fantastic in their own right and fit the 1930’s London scene perfectly.
And we even get a visit from Dick Van Dyke who famously played Bert and Mr. Dawes Senior in the first Mary Poppin, he’s older indeed, but he still has some fancy footwork left and we think him appearing is the perfect addition to this movie and the final blow to those who went in wanting to feel a bit nostalgic.
So you could say this is a pointless addition and you may be right, but you won’t regret seeing it it is actually very enjoyable and something we think any kid would love especially if they are a fan of musicals. So, in the end, our rating would have to be a 7/10 simply because it doesn’t quite live up to the original, and it shouldn’t, but also because it’s still one of the better holiday films you’ll see this season.
Mary Poppins Returns is in theatres today and if you end up loving the soundtrack you can listen to it here: