Mary Poppins Returns, the highly anticipated sequel to the classic 1964 movie, is a near perfect homage to its predecessor. This new film, which is sure to be a fast family favourite, features a grown-up ‘Jane’ and ‘Michael Banks’ (Emily Mortimer and Ben Wishaw) as they struggle to remember the magic they experienced with ‘Mary Poppins’ in their youth. When Mary Poppins descends from the sky, this time in the form of Emily Blunt, rather than Julie Andrews, Michael and his children are on the brink of losing 17 Cherry Tree Lane to the wicked banker ‘William “Weatherall” Wilkins’ (Colin Firth). As Michael and his sister hurry to find a way to save their home, Mary Poppins takes his three children on all manner of wild adventures. However, whilst these new adventures are just as charming as those in the original movie, the attempt to emulate the original songs and sequences was unmistakable, and for the most part, Mary Poppins Returns lacked a little magic.
it was a far cry from the original
Watching Mary Poppins today, it is evidently a product of its time. There is very little plot and the jewel in its crown is the animated sequence which takes place inside one of ‘Bert’s (Dick Van Dyke) chalk paintings. However, whilst this technique was ground-breaking in 1964, it seems a little forced in Mary Poppins Returns, with the children travelling into a Royal Doulton bowl so that Mary and Jack the Lamplighter (Lin-Manuel Miranda) can dance with adorable cartoon penguins. This entire sequence seemed less like an attempt to honour Bert and Mary’s dance through the chalk painting, and more like an attempt to outdo it with the aid of modern special effects. Needless to say, it was a far cry from the original, and on more than one occasion I found myself wishing that the children would hurry up and get out of the bowl and help their father in his quest to save their home.
The songs themselves, penned by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, do not even come close to the original score by the Sherman brothers, and seem a little underwhelming even after a second and third listening. The decision to essentially recreate the songs of Mary Poppins, with “Trip A Little Light Fantastic” taking the place of “Step In Time” and “A Cover Is Not The Book” that of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, makes a comparison all too easy, and for the most part, these new songs do not even begin to live up to their predecessors. The only exception seems to be the final number “Nowhere To Go But Up”, which has a catchy melody, but even this takes most of its charm from “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”.
There is no question that Julie Andrews’ portrayal of Mary Poppins is iconic, and to think that anyone could even come close to doing any better than she did is preposterous, but Emily Blunt measured up to the challenge excellently. She cuts the perfect balance between emulating Andrews’ mannerisms and catchphrases, and putting her own stamp on the character. She embodies the role of the magical nanny as well as anyone stepping into Andrews’ shoes could ever hope to do. The rest of the cast shines just as brightly, capturing all the magic of the 1964 movie. Indeed, it is in the little references to the original film that Mary Poppins Returns truly shines.
The songs are far from fabulous, and the plot seems a little discordant with the magical sequences, and yet it is still a wonderful film
Attempting to recreate the magic of Mary Poppins is a monumental task, and one which this new sequel seems to achieve with considerable success. The songs are far from fabulous, and the plot seems a little discordant with the magical sequences, and yet it is still a wonderful film. Returning to Cherry Tree Lane, complete with Admiral Boom and his poorly-timed cannon, felt a little like stepping back in time, and the numerous children with whom I shared the cinema seemed just as enchanted as I was when I first saw Mary Poppins fly in on her magical umbrella.