Disney warmed our hearts in 1964 with ‘Mary Poppins’, a likely childhood favorite of many generations that has stood the test of time.
Now, 54 years later, it’s finally getting a sequel, but does it hold its own and feel worth the wait? Well, I’m happy to say it stands alongside recent musical classics like ‘La La Land’ and ‘Into the Woods’, and it is a pure delight from beginning to end.
Your imagination is sparked, and like the jaded adults in the story, you slowly become a kid again as you watch it.
Rarely do movies truly transport you to another world, and ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ manages not just to do that, but also leave you with a better feeling and outlook than when you entered the theater.
There’s a lot to like here, but foremost is the stupendous soundtrack that is both heavily reminiscent of the Sherman Brothers’ work from the original, but also feels fresh, and is catchy.
Paired with the inventive colors and staging of the music, this is not only a continuation of its predeccesor, it stands out as one of the funnest experiences at the movies this year.
Being a sequel to an iconic work, you probably have reservations about anybody besides Julie Andrews assuming the role of Mary Poppins. But Emily Blunt fits right into the titular role so well, you immediately forget she was ever played by anyone else.
Lin Manuel Miranda is about as good at impersonating a cockney as Dick Van Dyke was…. that is to say, net terribly well, but he is a great singer and brings extraordinary energy to the screen.
The kids also are impressive in their abilities. They’re essentially playing kids who were forced to grow up too quickly due to their mother’s death, and Mary has to intervene to remind them of the joys of childhood and imagination.
All three of them are convincing actors and musical performers, which means they aren’t overshadowed by their adult contemporaries during the musical sequences.
All the songs are show stopping, but the biggest impact of any of them came from the sequence inside the porcelain bowl, where the characters enter a world of old fashioned two dimensional animation. It’s a nice callback to the first film’s racehorse sequence, but also a beautiful tribute to an art that’s practically dead in modern cinema.
Apparently Disney executives preferred 3D computer animation, but director Rob Marshall stood his ground, and it made for perhaps my favorite song from the picture. I nearly burst out in applause when it concluded, I was that impressed and emotionally moved.
A visual dazzle, a colorful soundscape, raucous dancing and throwback staging all combine to make exactly what Mary Poppins deserved, a proper follow up that captures its spirit whilst feeling like an original work.
Be sure to see it in a theater, preferably surrounded by children. That way you’ll be in the right atmosphere, and by the end, feel like one of them.