Featuring all new music and a completely different cast, Mary Poppins Returns is able to beautifully capture the essence of the 1964 film.
Taking place some 24 years following Mary Poppins, a lot has changed. Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) lives with his three children at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. The widowed Michael has three young children: Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie Banks (Joel Dawson). Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) has her own flat across London while following in her mother’s footsteps. Meanwhile, Ellen (Julie Walters) still works at the Banks’ housekeeper.
Fidelity Fiduciary Bank is no longer run by Mr. Dawes, Jr. (Dick Van Dyke) but his nephew, William Weatherall Wilkins (Colin Firth). The bank plays a large part of the film’s plot this time around. Michael works for the bank as a way to make ends meet but it’s simply not enough. This is where the practically-perfect nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) comes into play. Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a street lamplighter, is a character who fits the mold of Bert without replacing him outright.
For all the Meryl Streep fans out there, she doesn’t disappoint as Mary’s cousin, Topsy. Unfortunately, her character’s screen time is less than ten minutes. It’s a fun performance though. You can’t help but want more from Streep.
The chimney sweeps are out and the street lamplighters are in! This was the first noticeable change for the film–based on PL Travers’ Mary Poppins Stories. They have their own number, too, “Trip A Little Light Fantastic.” The tune is one of the two being submitted by Disney for Oscar consideration.
The biggest question going into the newest Mary Poppins film was if the would be able to replicate the magic. Thankfully, the answer to this question is yes! The new songs written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are no doubt inspired by the legendary Sherman Brothers. Surviving brother Richard Sherman is a musical consultant on the film. There’s some show-stoppers in the film, including “A Cover Is Not the Book” at the Royal Doulton Magic Hall. Emily Blunt absolutely crushes this tune with Lin-Manuel Miranda. In lieu of a song about kites, there’s a similar tune at the end following the appearance of the Balloon Lady (Angela Lansbury) at the fair: “Nowhere to Go But Up.”
If you’re wondering if you need to worry about Emily Blunt replacing Julie Andrews, the answer is no. Even if she isn’t the legendary actress, Blunt is worthy of the role. Arguably, Blunt equals Andrews’ 1964 performance and may even be better. From the minute that Mary Poppins appears on screen, it doesn’t matter who is portraying her. All that matters is if she can act and sing. The answer is yes and this film doesn’t disappoint on that front.
Led by stunning performances from Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Poppins Returns is able to check off every applicable box.
DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall
SCREENWRITER: David Magee
CAST: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, introducing Joel Dawson with Colin Firth and Meryl Streep