Mary Poppins Returns is the newest attempt by Disney to revisit their beloved classics. However, instead of being a live-action adaptation of one of their animated hits, this is instead a sequel to the 1964 masterpiece Mary Poppins. Set decades after the original, this film follows the eponymous magical nanny as she returns to help the Bankses through another difficult time in their lives.
This movie somehow manages to capture the magical spirit of the original while still feeling unique and totally necessary. Mary Poppins is considered by many to be one of the pinnacles of the musical genre, so some questioned why Disney even chose to make a sequel. Although this is sure to be a hit with audiences, you can see the amount of passion that went into making this film.
A significant factor in the movie’s success may be that it was directed by Rob Marshall, a usually acclaimed director of movie musicals, perhaps best known for his 2002 version of Chicago. Marshall always approaches musicals creatively, and he does an excellent job of transporting the audience back into the world of Mary Poppins.
The original film is two hours and nineteen minutes long, and this one isn’t far off, clocking in at two hours and ten minutes. The length of the original can be explained by the fact that the attention spans of children has been shrinking over time. Still, this movie is sure to captivate audiences — young and old — because of its fast pace and sense of whimsy.
The film follows an arc similar to that of the original, so it is somewhat predictable at times, but it is thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. This movie has the ability to make you feel like a kid again as you are wrapped up in its story. In a bold and wise move, the film doesn’t use any of the iconic songs from the original. Hardcore fans can likely tell which songs substitute for those from the original, but that doesn’t matter, as the new songs are great too.
Emily Blunt does a phenomenal job as Mary Poppins. Even though Julie Andrews and the character were nearly inseparable, Blunt feels like she does the character justice while still making it her own. She is truly a joy to watch and may become a dark horse contender for an Oscar nomination. Also great is Lin-Manuel Miranda. He is charming and funny and his role, and has an excellent singing voice. The movie even gives him a chance to flex his Hamilton muscles in a rap-like verse in one of the songs.
The execution of the film is wonderful too. It is refreshing how the movie combines the more traditional filmmaking style with the more modern methods and techniques. There is one sequence that blends live action and hand-drawn animated footage, much like the original, and it is glorious. If this film does not get an Oscar nomination for Best Production Design for this sequence alone, there should be a riot.
Overall, Mary Poppins Returns is a welcome follow-up to a beloved movie featuring some of the most beloved characters in all of film history. This is certainly the one to watch this holiday season.
Mary Poppins Returns opens in theaters December 19.