While not technically part of the trend for live-action Disney remakes, Mary Poppins Returns has a symmetry with the 1964 film that is hard to miss. There’s Americans playing cockneys, children stepping into art, and fathers adrift from their families. But in the case of Mary Poppins Returns, these similarities only serve to remind us how pertinent its message still is: big banks are evil, and the magic of childhood must always be remembered. And, what’s more, it holds up as its own film, no mean feat for a retread of a Disney classic.
It’s an utterly joyous spectacle, with gorgeous sequences in music halls set on a china bowl and Meryl Streep dangling upside down with an outrageous Eastern European accent. Lamplighters sprawl across London in a dance number led by a fantastic Lin-Manuel Miranda. Emily Blunt makes Poppins her own, adding cheekiness, but also a rather odd and hammy “posh” English accent. The songs bounce around your head for days after.
One thing missing from the sequel is the grit of the first film. While there are some scary moments for younger viewers, the real crux of Mary Poppins came from Mr Banks’ genuine coldness. Ben Whishaw is great, but his performance is less stony, leading to a too-easy conclusion. This removes such a chunk of emotional heft that although the film is touching, it never manages to tug the heartstrings in quite the same way as the original.
What Mary Poppins Returns does more than anything is remind us of the greatness of the 1964 original. But the sequel is rambunctious and cheeky, with catchy songs. It proves, more than anything, that we are all kids at heart; flying kites and with nowhere to go but up.
CAST: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies
DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall
WRITER: David Magee
SYNOPSIS: Mary Poppins returns to Cherry Tree Lane to look after the Banks children once more, after a family tragedy and in the face of losing their home.