- “Mary Poppins Returns” has the feel of the old musicals Disney used to make in the 1960s and 1970s, like the first “Mary Poppins,” “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” and “Pete’s Dragon.”
- Emily Blunt owns the Poppins role with her “stern on the outside, soft on the inside” performance.
- And Lin-Manuel Miranda is fantastic in the song-and-dance numbers.
You know what you’re going to get when you see a Rob Marshall musical. The director of Oscar-winning “Chicago” and “Into the Woods” will deliver a dazzling spectacle with dancing and singing, surrounded by beautiful set design.
And all of that is on display in his latest, Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns” (in theatres December 19), which is a sequel to the studio’s 1964 classic, “Mary Poppins.” But what Marshall adds to his arsenal this time is invoking Disney’s history of uplifting musicals.
2014’s “Into the Woods,” also a Disney release, was a little too dark for Marshall to really go down this road. But in introducing the magical English nanny (this time played by Emily Blunt, following Julie Andrews in the original) to a new generation, Marshall is able to add the feel and style of Disney’s musicals of the 1960s-1970s.
In that era of Disney movie-making, along with “Mary Poppins,” there were releases like “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Pete’s Dragon” that amazed kids by featuring child actors singing catchy songs (say it with me now, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”), and interacting with two-dimensional animation. Marshall takes that formula and uses it to make “Mary Poppins Returns” one of the most enjoyable movie experiences you’ll have over the holidays.
The movie picks up with Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer), the kid characters from the original movie, all grown up. Michael is still living in the house they grew up in. But he now has three kids and Jane often comes by to help, as Michael’s wife recently passed away. And to make things more challenging, Michael is late on paying his mortgage and the bank is looking to foreclose. Then out of the London sky comes Mary Poppins to keep watch of the kids while Michael and Jane try to figure out how to save the house.
But the plot of the movie is hardly a concern for the audience.
The heart of the movie is the non-stop musical numbers (sometimes with BMX bikes – yeah, we don’t get it either), the dazzling CGI, and Emily Blunt just owning the Mary Poppins role. Poppins’ version of a bubble bath is going into the tub and ending up deep in the ocean, playing with giant toys and singing. And when a piece of fine China chips, the kids, Poppins, and street lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) go into the bowl, interacting with the paintings that are on it, which come to life in 2D animation – a nostalgic touch for those who grew up on the first “Mary Poppins.”
The movie contains all new original songs, which are as beautiful and catchy as the ones from the first movie, and along with Blunt, Miranda is fantastic in the song-and-dance numbers.
Honestly, after seeing this movie, if you don’t feel like running out of the theatre and hugging whoever you cross paths with, something is wrong with you.
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