There is one word and one word only to describe Mary Poppins Returns: delightful. As soon as you hear Lin Manuel Miranda sing “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky” on the cobblestone streets of London, you are immediately transported back to Robert Stevenson’s original 1964 film, smacking a cheek-to-cheek smile that doesn’t leave until you leave the theater.
Making a sequel over 50 years from the first film is a very Hollywood idea, especially in this current age of remakes, sequels, and franchises. But director Rob Marshall and screenwriter David Magee have made a movie that is in the same spirit of the first film. From the costumes and sets to the tone and feeling of joy, this movie feels like it was made immediately after the first film and not 50-plus years later. It could have been very easy for them to go a different route, for them to show Mary in a new light or change the character. But they didn’t. They knew who Mary Poppins is and what she represents and made sure they continued to convey her message in this film.
Mary Poppins, who is played marvelously by Emily Blunt here, is a magical nanny who cleans up people’s lives, both literally and figuratively. She’ll fold the sheets, dust the shelves, and also make sure people are experiencing life for all that it is worth. Life isn’t about money and houses and things like that, it’s about appreciating the people you have in it and having fun with them while you can. This was the message that is in the original film and it is the message that is in this one and it is a reminder that no matter how bad things can get, there are always those around us who keep us up.
Julie Andrews gave an iconic Oscar winning performance in the original film and left the largest shoes to fill for Blunt to fill. Blunt filled those shoes and busted through the toe. She is an electric force, hitting every single tone and mannerism of Andrews, while also singing beautifully and having an absolute ball while doing it. She works wonderfully with the children, all whom are great, and her duets with Lin Manuel Miranda (who gives a stellar performances and announces his presence as a movie star) are something to behold. And let me quickly talk about the legendary Dick Van Dyke, in a cameo performance that nearly steals the whole movie. You can’t prepare for how perfect he is.
The musical numbers will fill your heart with joy and wonder. Marshall, who’s an old pro at Musicals having directed Best Picture winner Chicago and the dark fairy tale Into the Woods gives us glorious sequences ripped right from 1960’s Disney. Mixing live-action, CGI, and animation to deliver some of the best musical numbers in recent years. In terms of set-pieces, “Trip a Light Fantastic” feels like it was ripped right off a Broadway stage and “Can You Imagine That?” makes us realize what Mary Poppins is capable of. “The Place Where Lost Things Go” will crush your heart and all the numbers from “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” are extraordinary, as Blunt and Miranda do a Vaudevillian duet with dancing animated penguins that will have your jaw on the floor.
Times are tough right now. There is so much negative news going around. Everyday there is political corruption, death, or tragedy and every is on edge. Mary Poppins Returns couldn’t have come at a better time. This is a warm, joyous, beautiful celebration of life and love. This is a holiday treat for the whole family and one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen in 2018.
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