“First of all, I would like to make one thing clear: I never explain anything” – Julie Andrews as “Mary Poppins” in the 1964 movie
More than 50 years has gone by since the release of the original Mary Poppins, which earned five Academy Awards including a Best Actress win for Julie Andrews. It is the only movie from Disney that earned a Best Picture nomination during Walt Disney’s lifetime.
Now comes a sequel. Mary Poppins Returns stars the brilliant Emily Blunt in the title role. The Banks children from the original movie are now adults. “Michael” (Ben Whishaw – Skyfall, The Danish Girl) still lives in the house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. He lives there with his three children, “Annabel” (Pixie Davies), “Georgie” (Joel Dawson) and “John” (Nathanael Saleh). His adult sister “Jane” (Emily Mortimer – Shutter Island) has her own flat in London and is working as a labor organizer.
Michael had tried to earn a living as a painter, but that didn’t work out so well. After the death of his wife “Kate” he took out a loan from the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank to pay the household expenses. That’s the same bank his father “George” worked at in the first film. Now he toils there as a part-time teller. The sound of pounding on the front door alerts Michael to the fact that the bank is now calling in the full amount of the loan, as he has fallen behind on the payments. He talks to the bank’s chairman, “William Weatherall Wilkins” (Colin Firth – The Railway Man) who lets him know that he will remain in his office until midnight on Friday, to give him every opportunity to pay the balance due.
The search is on to find the certificate of the shares in the bank that were left to Michael by his father. In the search, he comes across the kite that is part of the original story but there is no sign of the certificate. Meanwhile, the kite brings Mary Poppins back from wherever she went a quarter-century ago. She looks the same as always, practically perfect in every way.
Being a Disney film, and a sequel to one of their best efforts ever, the rest is predictable and surprising all at once. The multi-talented Lin-Manuel Miranda is “Jack” who was once an apprentice of “Bert”, the chimney-sweep from the original movie. Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury have delightful, albeit brief appearances.
The musical numbers are well-choreographed, the mixing of animation and live-action works well and judged solely as a stand-alone effort, this is an excellent film. It would be unfair to make comparisons to the 1964 masterpiece so I won’t even go there. Emily Blunt continues to prove that she has unlimited range as a performer.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that there are eight Mary Poppins books in the series authored by P. L. Travers.