By Steven Sheehan.
Who would have thought, 54 years after Mary Poppins opened her umbrella and disappeared over London she’d be back again?
Either way, the nanny with a magic carpet bag is back. And once again it’s the Banks family who is in need of her help.
Set in 1930s London, we return to the Banks children – Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) – who are now all grown up.
After the death of his wife, Michael is seriously behind on his mortgage payments. His devious boss, William Wilkins (Colin Firth), has given him 5 days before he repossess the family home.
Michael has to find his father’s lost bank shares or they’ll all be out on the streets.
Mary (Emily Blunt) arrives to be greeted by the cheerful lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda – creator of hit Broadway show Hamilton).
She sees that Michael’s children Annabel, John and little Georgie have all grown up fast without their mother. That’s when she gets to work, her sassy parrot in tow, getting the Banks family back into shape.
Julie Andrews was set to make an appearance but declined to let Blunt have a clear run at the role. The good news is that Angela Lansbury does pop up briefly.
Director Rob Marshall said he couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role of Mary Poppins. And after a few short minutes, it’s easy to see why.
She is already a fine actress but every time she’s on screen, she casts a spell. It’s hard not to take the advice she gets to the Banks children to heart yourself.
This new version of Mary is a little cheekier than before. But Blunt manages to channel the spirit of Julie Andrews while making the role her own.
Of course, like its predecessor, Mary Poppins Returns is also a musical. Suffice to say there are a lot of songs to get through.
What this film can’t conjure up is classics like “A Spoon Full of Sugar” or “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. The pressure of writing songs that could compare must’ve been immense. Unfortunately, many of them are mediocre and forgettable.
In many ways, Mary Poppins Returns follows the same structure as the original. That only makes it harder for the film to stand on its own two feet.
Although, when they pay homage to the classic “Jolly Holiday” song, it does work perfectly. This is where the film blends together classic 2D Disney animation with the real-life actors.
It’s the closest Disney come to recapturing the magic of the original. But the film tries too hard to re-create what people love about its predecessor, instead of moving on with its own ideas.
All-in-all, Mary Poppins Returns is a mixed bag. The shadow of the original is never far away which is its biggest problem.
As a family film, it will provide a nice escape from the couch this Christmas. Just don’t expect it to be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Mary Poppins Returns opens nationwide in UK cinemas on December 21st 2018