2018 is exactly the right time for a new Mary Poppins film to emerge. The world’s in dire need of a magical nanny to restore order and point our moral compasses in the right direction.
Mary Poppins Returns finds Emily Blunt stepping into the dancing shoes of Julie Andrews, and she does an admirable job of taking on the iconic role in the 2018 Mary Poppins sequel. This lively follow-up incorporates singing, dancing, romance, drama, comedy, and the beloved dancing penguins from the original film in its quest to win over audiences of all ages.
Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins sails down from the sky on a mission to once again help the Banks family. This time it’s Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), the grown son of George Banks, who could use a little spoonful of Mary Poppins’ sugar. (And I mean that in a completely PG way.)
Michael’s raising three children on his own following the death of his wife, and he’s horribly behind on paying the mortgage. The kids and their father are about to be booted out of their home when Mary Poppins shows up, magical handbag in tow and ready to whip up all sorts of fantastical adventures. Mary Poppins’ appearance not only helps set Michael and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) on the correct course to keep their family home, but also saves the family from the lingering sadness over the loss of the children’s mother.
Emily Blunt doesn’t have Julie Andrews’ vocal range (very few actresses do), but she does capture the character’s whimsical spirit just as Andrews did in the original film. Blunt’s natural charm shines through and there’s a pure sense of joy that emanates from Blunt’s performance.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is an inspired choice to take on the role of the eternally optimistic lamplighter, Jack. He’s slipped into Dick Van Dyke’s sidekick role and, just as with Blunt, Miranda brings a joyfulness to the character that’s undeniably infectious. His “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” number is a loving tip of the hat to Van Dyke’s “Step in Time” chimney sweep bit.
Disney’s Mary Poppins was released in theaters in 1964 and won five Oscars including Original Song and Substantially Original Score. Arriving 54 years later, the sequel has already picked up four Golden Globes nominations before its theatrical release on December 19, 2018. However, it’s interesting to note the musical was shut out in the Best Original Song category by the Golden Globes nominating group, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. I don’t often agree with their choices, but in this particular instance I do.
That said, the Broadcast Film Critics Association – a group I’m a member of – did recognize the film with two Critics’ Choice Awards nominations in the Best Song category. It also earned a nomination in the Best Score category where it’ll be competing against Green Book, Black Panther, If Beale Street Could Talk, Isle of Dogs, and First Man. Overall, Mary Poppins Returns picked up nine Critics’ Choice Awards nominations. In addition, the peppy musical claimed a spot on AFI’s Movie of the Year list, a Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role nomination, and made the cut for the National Board of Review’s Top 10 Films of 2018 list.
After winning over critics groups and awards bodies, Mary Poppins Returns is all but guaranteed to win over a new generation of moviegoers. The film features some truly entertaining fantasy sequences including one crazy musical number (“Can You Imagine That?”) with Mary Poppins and the children taking an undersea voyage courtesy of the bathtub drain. There’s also a magical mystery trip sequence in which Mary Poppins, Jack, and the children enter the world depicted in a drawing on the children’s mother’s ceramic bowl. That sequence deserves its own short film spinoff, although – fair warning – it nudges the line of being too scary for really young audiences.
Mary Poppins Returns is toe-tapping, smile-inducing fun that smoothly integrates the actors with an assortment of animated characters that are brought to life in vivid colors. The sequel pays homage to the beloved classic film (some nods at the original are so subtle they need a second viewing to confirm), yet this lively sequel manages to simultaneously forge its own path.
Disney’s long-awaited return of Mary Poppins to the big screen is a delightful family-friendly film and a sweet trip down memory lane for older audiences. And Dick Van Dyke’s cameo is the cherry on the top of this cinematic treat.
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild thematic elements and brief action
Running Time: 130 minutes
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Release Date: December 19, 2018