I really enjoyed Mary Poppins Returns. It’s a solid sequel in that it tells a new story but maintains the feeling of the original… which is particularly impressive when you realize that Mary Poppins came out in 1964 (so… 55 years ago) and every single major role has been recast.
I was a little hesitant going into this one. Mary Poppins has never been one of my favorite movies. I like it, but I’ve never really loved it. I didn’t really see the point of a sequel, but when I heard Lin-Manuel Miranda was going to be in it, I changed my mind. I trust that I’ll like anything that he’s involved with. So far he has not let me down, and Mary Poppins Returns is a lot of fun.
It’s not just Lin-Manuel Miranda who’s well cast. Emily Blunt, who plays Mary Poppins, is the perfect replacement for Julie Andrews. Blunt’s Mary Poppins is charming but stern, a bit narcissistic, kind but with a streak of mischievousness. Both the Banks kids are recast exceptionally well. Adult Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Adult Jane (Emily Mortimer) really resemble the child actors from the originals. Jane is particularly uncanny. They’re also very winning actors, so they’re excellent even apart from physically resembling the original kids.
From a story standpoint, the Banks kids grew up perfectly. They are similar to their own parents (Michael has a mustache and works in a bank; Jane is an activist for the underprivileged) but both feel like their own characters. They also hit a very good balance between stodgy-adult-in-kids’-film and child-at-heart. You can’t have the grown-ups be too aware of the situation in a movie like this, but it would have been a frustrating copout to ignore the fact that Jane and Michael experienced Mary Poppins and her magic in the previous film. It’s a tough line to watch, but I think that the new movie manages it. Mary Poppins’ return helps Jane and Michael to regain their childlike wonder and belief in magic, and that rediscovery is just as well done–if not better than–Michael’s kids discovering magic for the first time.
It’s not just the kids that pay homage to the original. The famous kite is central to the movie, and many of the story beats from Mary Poppins are repeated—with changes—in Mary Poppins Returns. There’s an animated sequence with talking animals. There’s a sequence that’s reminiscent of the ceiling tea party. Lin-Manuel’s lamplighters have a dance sequence that’s clearly patterned after Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep scene, and Dick Van Dyke himself pops in for a scene. The closing number has an uplifting “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” sort of feeling. The whole movie is littered with callbacks, references, and motifs to and from the original, which gives the movie a fun balance of newness and nostalgia.
It’s impossible to review a musical without talking about the songs. The score is excellent. The famous songs from the original movie are present in instrumentals, and the new songs are beautiful. “The Place Where Lost Things Go” is my personal favorite, but the original songs are all quite good, and there’s a nice combination of beautiful, somber songs and cheery, upbeat ones. “Nowhere to Go but Up” is adorable as well.
I also have to give a shoutout to the costumes, which are incredibly cheerful and colorful. I particularly like the pastel dress Mary wears during the animated carriage ride, which looks halfway stitched and halfway drawn. The whole movie is pretty to look at.
Mary Poppins Returns is a very fun movie that is pleasantly nostalgic but not overly so. It’s filled with lovely songs, bright colors, and a winning cast, and its storyline is affecting but not overwrought. I really enjoyed it, and I think anyone who likes the original Mary Poppins will be very pleased with its new sequel.