In 1964, Disney released “Mary Poppins,” a musical with a mix of live action and animation. In 2018, the company has released “Mary Poppins Returns,” which is not a remake but a sequel, more than half a century later.
Of course, the new movie doesn’t star Julie Andrews as Mary or Dick van Dyke as chimney sweep Bert. This time, Emily Blunt takes the role of the magical nanny while a lamp lighter (or leery) named Jack is played by Lin Manuel Miranda — and yes, he does get to rap in one scene. There are still Banks children, though they are the children of a now-grown Michael (Ben Whishaw). Michael’s sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer), is also an adult with her own apartment but spends plenty of time with her brother and niece and nephews.
Mary Poppins shows up, as before, during a sort of windstorm and vows to take care of the Banks children — including Michael and Jane. “Mary Poppins Returns” parallels its predecessor in many ways: it’s a mix of live action and animation; it’s a musical; there is a visit to a quirky character’s home; the main story lines still involve the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. Even the dance the leeries do late in the film is a near-mirror of the chimney sweep dance from the 1964 movie, and Jane doesn’t have to be a suffragette like her mother, so she’s fighting for labor rights.
So, how does this new movie hold up or compare to the original? That probably varies from person to person. If you’re unfamiliar with “Mary Poppins,” I’d highly recommend watching it before seeing this new film. There are so many winks and nods to the first that would be missed otherwise! If you’ve seen the first movie a few times and enjoyed it, “Mary Poppins Returns” is probably right up your alley.
If, like me, you’re somewhat…obsessed with the original movie, there’s a chance this one falls short. Don’t get me wrong: “Mary Poppins Returns” is a delight, especially when you’re headed to the theater for some escapism. There’s just something about the unfamiliarity of the new songs and characters that makes it harder to watch when you know the original so well, especially since they clearly tried (and in many ways succeeded) to make it comparable to the classic. That also doesn’t mean the cast did anything less than a stellar job; Emily Mortimer was inspired casting, while Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda carried the movie with pizzazz.
It would be nice if this sequel became a new classic of sorts. One thing that surprised me in my own showing was the number of young children who were there not just watching but truly enjoying the movie. They clapped along to musical numbers and laughed at the jokes. That’s no small feat for a mostly live action movie (centered around a banking story!) that is over two hours long. 1964’s “Mary Poppins” is also still beloved among some children evidently, as I heard a group of young girls singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” (the final song from the original film) while exiting the theater after the showing.
This is a great end-of-year film, as it is likely to return you to childhood with its wonder-filled world. It’s nice to see a movie that makes you forget all the awful things happening in the real world, if only for a couple of hours. There are even some fun cameos! And, as I said above, it’s definitely a family film that will hold most kids’ attention, surprising as that may be. Whether you’re seeing it for the holidays or just for some weekend fun, this is a movie that shouldn’t go unseen for most people (of all ages).
“Mary Poppins Returns” is in theaters now.
Originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Jackie has called Austin home since choosing to attend the University of Texas, where she graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism. She loves spending time with her dogs, writing about pop culture in all its forms and spending time with friends – eating, drinking and doing trivia.