Mary Poppins makes a spectacular and emotional return to the big screen.
It’s safe to say that Disney have had a huge 2018, and look set to have a incredible year ahead with the remakes of both Dumbo and The Lion King, both set for release in 2019. In fact, Disney have been busy creating prequels and sequels for a number of years now and the latest addition to that trend is Rob Marshall’s Mary Poppins Returns. 54 years on since we first saw Mary Poppins visit the Banks residence on 17 Cherry Tree Lane, Marshall’s vibrant and toe-tappingly take on PL Travers’ beloved character is a near perfect comeback.
The film begins with loveable ‘leery’ Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) dimming the gas lights around London accompanied by a sweet opening tune as Jack rides around London and ends up on 17 Cherry Tree Lane, the house where the Banks live. Now both adults, Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), spend their time looking after the new Banks children, John (Nathanael Saleh), Annabel (Pixie Davies) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) after the death of Michael’s wife. After a chaotic, and maybe slightly overdone moment, with a burst kitchen pipe, Michael learns that he hasn’t been able to pay off the bank loan since his wife died and has 5 days to pay it back, or the bank will repossess the house. Michael realises he has shares in the bank, which will be enough to save the house and starts immediately looking for the certificate, throwing out some of the family memories in the process, including the kite he and Jane flew as children. As the Banks children decide to help their father out by getting the groceries, Georgie chases the kite as it sets flight over the park and as the wind becomes too strong for Georgie and Jack, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to London, attached to the kite.
Despite a relatively slow start, Marshall does well to set the story out so efficiently. We are introduced to the new Banks children, all with their own personalities and traits, made aware of Michaels financial troubles and revisit some of the classic features that were evident in Mary Poppins including Ellen (Julie Walters) the housekeeper and the annoying Admiral Boom (David Warner) and Mr Binnacle (Jim Norton), who still set off that bloody canon every hour. Considering all this is done in the first 20 minutes or so and we’re all waiting for Mary Poppins to return, it’s quite a lot to fit in, and it is maybe slightly too miss-matched but it does set up the story surprisingly well.
Once Mary Poppins arrives though, the film completely comes into its own and is filled with love, laughter and charm all the way through. Some of the musical sequences are absolutely spectacular, especially the bath tub and china bowl sequences which both boast perfect new show tunes and are both visually incredible spectacles which will please musical and cinema fans alike. The china bowl sequence in particular, pays such respect to the original film with the animation forgoing the usual green screen feel and is replaced by an old school cartoon aesthetic, complete with loveable cartoon dog and cart rider Shaymus and his horse Clyde. There are so many pleasing and thoroughly enjoyable musical numbers in the film and I’m sure the powerful and emotional tribute to Michael’s wife, A Conversation, sung by Ben Whishaw will have many adults reaching for the tissues and the Trip A Little Light Fantastic leery tune is a fantastic 2018 rendition of Step In Time.
I’ve managed to go as far as I can without mentioning the performances and Emily Blunt in particular, but now I simply have to. Blunt gives an incredible portrayal as Mary Poppins, nailing her sassiness, charm and whit and gives a powerful and awe-inspiring performance. Lin-Manuel Miranda also gives an accomplished performance as Jack, and really comes into his own in the musical numbers. Whishaw and Mortimer also gives great performances as Michael and Jane, and Mortimer in particular plays a wonderfully sweet character in a similar mould of her mother in the original. The Banks children all play their parts well, especially as they carry a lot more of the film than I was expecting, with Joel Dawson playing the mischievous Georgie brilliantly. There is also another good performance from Colin Firth as the mean and profit chasing banker Williams and some lovely cameos from the legendary pair of Meryl Streep and Dick Van Dyke and I’m sure everyone will be as pleased as I was to see Van Dyke’s dancing near the end.
Marshall’s film is filled with warmth and love but is not quite perfect. As I mentioned earlier the film has a slightly chaotic beginning and the film certainly is in danger of running out of steam in the last 20 minutes, making the film slightly too long and whilst you’re not there wondering when it will end, you are made aware that it’s taking a while to wrap up. With some lovely throwbacks to the original but unmistakably new and original in it’s own way, Mary Poppins Returns is a spectacular and emotional return to the big screen to one of Disney’s most loved characters.
Mary Poppins Returns is released on December 19th by Walt Disney Studios.