One is not sure whether it is foolish or challenging to revisit the vintage magic, festivity and wonderment of the 60s classic musical ‘Mary Poppins’ to serve up for the millennium-age masses. It is only human nature for Poppins purists to compare and contrast the beloved Julie Andrews-starring vehicle with whatever modern-day remake that dares to invoke the bouncy jubilation of the original blueprint.
Director Rob Marshall allows for one of cinema’s well-known notable nannies to open wide her trademark parasol and embark on her further fantasy-based adventures with the Banks clan in song and spirit. It has taken five-plus decades to reinvent the charismatic caretaker and introduce her to a whole new generational crowd.
In Marshall’s spry and seasonal spectacle ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, this edition has its unique charm and rhythm that is undeniable. There is no reasonable expectation for Marshall’s lyrical landscape to rival filmmaker Robert Stevenson’s 1964 multiple Oscar-winning merry-minded musical. Nevertheless, ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ secures its own creative merit as a whimsical gem laced with an all-star cast led by the resourceful perkiness of Emily Blunt.
Disney is very instrumental in its signature stamp on the current Poppins phenomenon as it was back in its heyday. Screenwriter David McGee dutifully delivers a rollicking romp designed for the family-friendly experience. If anything the nostalgia and nuttiness connected with the Mary Poppins mystique of yesteryear are sure to rub off on the contemporary moviegoers, particularly the ones whose childhood memories were riddled with familiar sing-a-long ditties that included ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ and ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. The ‘Mary Poppins’ stories originated from the creative mind of PL Travers.
The setting in this sequel takes place decades after the original film’s timeframe in 1930s London. Audiences are introduced to Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins as she drifts through the blue sky hanging on to a kite (sorry…no parasol present this time around). Mysterious and majestic, Mary Poppins is a revelation to the Banks children now adults in need of support and care. Mary’s former charges from the first movie, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer), are in utter turmoil as they face losing their precious homestead to a cutthroat banker William Weatherall Wilkins (played with cheeky villainous flair by Oscar-winner Colin Firth).
Naturally, Mary wants to come to the aid of her treasured Banks bunch and defeat the duplicitous Wilkins in the process. Thankfully, Mary reunites with a dear friend Jack the lamplighter (‘Hamilton’ star Lin-Manuel Miranda) whose carefree demeanor is in stark contrast to his dour surroundings. Miranda’s Jack represents the part of Dick Van Dyke’s Cockney Bert from the predecessor film. Incidentally, 90-something Van Dyke has a cameo much to the joy of the Poppins fandom.
The premise is rather simplistic in ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ but endearingly realised courtesy of the festive performances by Blunt and Miranda. The film is blessed with an array of capable contributors all willing to partake in a musical maze of old-fashioned fun and frolic. This bubbly SF/fantasy entertainment is inspired by the notable names including accomplished vets in Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, and Julie Walters. As the impoverished kids of Whisaw’s troubled single father Michael, the young performers are enjoyable as they reinforce the pageantry of the film’s melodic vibes.
The acting, singing, and dancing are infectious in ‘Mary Poppins Returns’. Again, Marshall’s (‘Chicago’) eye-popping entry may not make anyone forget the Andrews-driven musical masterpiece from half a century ago. However, Blunt’s flamboyant take is an ideal opportunity to recruit today’s youngsters in gravitating toward an imaginative escapist fable that believes in its sparkling whimsy.
Mary Poppins Returns
Walt Disney Pictures
2 hrs. 10 mins.
Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin Manuel Miranda, Colin Firth, Ben Whisaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Dick Van Dyke, Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: David Magee
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Family Adventure/Musical
Critic’s Rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2019