It would be quite easy to dismiss a sequel to one of cinema’s most beloved family features some fifty-plus years on from the release of the original, but this is Disney, and they would only push forward and step on hallowed celluloid with a tale worth telling with a team worthy of telling it. Mary Poppins Returns is a modern-day masterpiece that in fifty more years, we could look back on with that same fondness and magical exception in which our generation looks back at the flawless 1964 original.
Set some twenty-four years after the events of the first movie, Mary Poppins Returns centres once again on the Banks children, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer), now grown up with responsibilities of their own. Michael has three children, Annabel, John and Georgie, but we learn that he has sadly lost his wife a year earlier. Struggling with balancing home and work life, Michael has taken out a loan with the bank, which also happens to be his employers, the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, now headed up by a new chairman named Wilkins (Colin Firth). Things haven’t quite gone to plan in terms of repayment and Michael and his family, as well as loyal housekeeper Ellen (Julie Walters), are soon visited by two of the bank’s lawyers with a notice that the house on Cherry Tree Lane will be repossessed if the loan is not paid in full by the end of the week.
With just a part-time job as a teller, Michael can’t see a way of paying off the burdening debt in time, but remembers that he owns some shares in the bank which would be more than adequate to make the bank happy – he just needs to put his hands on the certificate which provides proof of ownership. Meanwhile, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has mysteriously ‘returned’ to the Banks family to look after the three children while Michael and Jane come up with a plan to solve their financial problems. Like Michael and Jane in the first film, Annabel, John and Georgie, as well as lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) are swept up and taken on a colourful and bright new adventure, with surprises around every corner – transported into the magical, wonderful world of perhaps the world’s most famous nanny.
There was so much that could have gone wrong with a new Mary Poppins film. Not only was there the task of replacing the practically perfect Julie Andrews with a new actor, but there were also the many songs from the first film that had to be at least equalled in terms of their catchy quality and timeless lastability. Thankfully, Disney and director Rob Marshall know what they are doing. Emily Blunt is sensational in the lead – almost as if she were born to play the role. Reuniting with Marshall following a successful collaboration on Into The Woods some years ago, Blunt is note-perfect as Poppins and the fear of her not measuring up are blown away with the winds from east as soon as she flies onto the screen.
The rest of the cast follow suit, Miranda supremely solid as side-kick cockney-lamplighter Jack, Walters seamlessly taking over from Hermione Baddeley as the loyal Ellen, and both Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer delighting as Michael and Jane Banks respectively.
The songs are well-written, and totally memorable – with earworms like ‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic’, ‘A Cover Is Not The Book’ and ‘Nowhere To Go But Up’ the clear stand-outs amongst the more up-tempo numbers. The ballad-like ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’ in the middle of the movie is the showstopper though, Blunt flawless in her delivery of this sentimental future-classic.
There are even cameos from the likes of acting royalty and Disney legend Angela Lansbury, original Jane Karen Dotrice, and even Bert himself, Dick Van Dyke, appearing as Mr. Dawes Jr. in the film’s climactic scenes.
Mary Poppins Returns is delightful, whimsical, heart-warming and totally enjoyable from the off. It’s a perfect family film and a wonderful Mary Poppins film for a new generation to hopelessly fall in love with.
As per most of Disney’s new Blu-ray releases, Mary Poppins Returns is presented on one-disc, but does come with a welcomed array of bonus features. There are initial teaser trailers for the upcoming Toy Story 4 and Aladdin, both of which plays as you boot up the disc. They are also loadable from the bonus features screen if you accidentally skip past them, though.
Disney has also treated us to a wonderful, fully contained ‘making of’ featurette ‘The Practically Perfect Making of Mary Poppins Returns’, a behind the scenes look at the film which runs at just under 24 minutes in length. The feature looks at all aspects of the production, from rehearsals through to the soundtrack recordings, and features tons interviews with the cast and B-roll footage of the actors and filmmakers at work. ‘Back to Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns,’ is a five-minute-long featurette showing Dick Van Dyke on set and had me welling up with tears almost as much as the movie did. There’s another feature titled ‘”Seeing Things from a Different Point of View”: The Musical Numbers of Mary Poppins Returns’ which looks at the many numbers from the movie, a deleted song called ‘The Anthropomorphic Zoo’, and two further deleted scenes. For the more musical amongst us there is also a sing-along version of the movie with full lyrics displayed on-screen.
As expected, Mary Poppins Returns is a totally worthy purchase with Disney not skimping on value for money – a definite future classic which will command repeat viewings from all members of the family.
Mary Poppins Returns is available to own on digital download, DVD and Blu-Ray now.