When the original Mary Poppins film came out in 1964, it was a refreshing and light-hearted story that audiences ate up with a spoonful of sugar. The playful nanny and her chimney sweeper sidekick, provided the perfect distraction from the chaos and violence that was ripping through the outside world at the time, think the Vietnam war, race riots, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Disney catered to baby boomers, who were just children then, the opportunity to escape the news and dreadful events, and just focus on feeling good. I wondered, why revive a movie that is now over 50 years old and start anew? It is clear that what the world needs now, everyone from baby boomers to kids today, is an escape from the negative airwaves that are polluting our minds. The truth is we need a break, and who better to fly in through a gust of wind and help us, then the magical woman herself, Mary Poppins.
In the new film, Mary Poppins Returns, directed by Rob Marshall, Mary’s (Emily Blunt) former charges, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now grown-up and live together with Michael’s three children. His wife just passed away and Michael is learning how to care for them with the help of his sister. He is still grief-stricken and trying to cope with the loss. On top of this, the bank has come to repossess their home, as Michael took out a large loan against the house and forgot to make the payments in his state of grief. The issue is he did not read the fine print and now the loan is due back in full. Michael’s father had shares in the bank and he learns that if he can find that certificate, then he can save the house. The problem is, he has no idea where that certificate was kept.
This creates the perfect storm for Mary to step in and just as she did before, she comes through out of nowhere literally and steps in as their nanny. The older children remember her and the magic, but scoff, as they believe it was all in their imagination. She takes the children, who are in desperate need of some parental direction, and brings back their child-like wonder. The children had been so set on trying to put on the food table and take care of their father, that they forgot how to laugh and be free.
She takes them on wild adventures through bath tub, and into another world inside of their mother’s prized vase. Inside the vase, the children are transformed and enjoy a musical moment that is intertwined with animation on the screen. The animation was like that of the original film and was not revived to look like the Disney and Pixar movies that we know today. I enjoyed the fact that they kept it classical in nature and a throwback to a simpler time in movies.
Mary’s sidekick this time around is the scruffy and chummy lamplighter Jack, (Lin Manuel Miranda), who gives us most of the musical moments in the film. They redo the infamous chimney musical scene, but replace it with his lamplighter buddies and it turns out to be one of the most infectious displays of fun and dance in the film. Miranda stuns in the film, he imparts the child-like feeling of delight and joy in every scene that he is in and his musical numbers, especially the “A Cover is Not a Book” number.
The cast is rounded out by Colin Firth, who plays the evil bank-owner, and we get wonderful cameos by Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury. The absolute best part of the film was seeing Van Dyke, I will not ruin the fun and tell you what happened but let me he does not disappoint. You could feel the entire audience clamor and clap like children when he arrived on the screen. A testament to the power that the original film had on people, it made us happy; and seeing him on screen again will make you smile.
Blunt was the best part of the entire film, she imparted on to the iconic role a subtle sense of charm and wit, and always delivered every line with a sly smile on her face. She does not try to act like Julie Andrews, but instead it infuses the role with her own no nonsense type of flair. She will leave an indelible memory on those who watch and will most likely garner an Oscar nomination for her role.
The colors used in the film were beautiful and saturated, and only added to giving this revival the jolt that it needed to have in order to succeed. The costumes were stunning and again this movie will get numerous Oscar nominations in many different categories, that is a fact.
I have to say the children in the movie, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson, were the most delightful actors I have seen in a long time. Acting alongside such heavy-hitters they performed with ease and stole many of the scenes. I am sure they will be ones to watch.
I highly recommend this movie for both adults and children. This might just be the most supercalifragilistic movie of the year.