“Mary Poppins Returns” Is Practically Perfect In Every Way
As Reviewed By Amy Kellestine
It’s been almost 55 years since the much-loved and heavily decorated Mary Poppins introduced us to the power of imagination as she sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and danced with chimney sweeps into our hearts. So I know there has been considerable apprehension and concern over whether or not the sequel, “Mary Poppins Returns” could ever come close to recreating the same magic for another generation of viewers. Luckily, this second “spoonful of sugar” offers the same whimsy and wonder as the original and delivers a strong sequel for viewers young and old alike.
The sequel picks up about 25 years after the original left off. The Banks children (Jane and Michael) are now grown, and recently widowed Michael lives in the family home with his three children (Annabel, John, and Georgie). Michael is an artist who has resorted to working at the same bank his father worked at in order to make ends meet. He has fallen behind on a loan he took out against the house, which is now in danger of being repossessed in a week unless he can pay it back in full. Enter sister, Jane, to help track down the shares in the bank and Mary Poppins to help everyone navigate the stress and anxiety of the situation with a good dose of imagination and magic. The plot is simplistic at best, but no more so than the original and it maintains the same heartwarming and wholesome feel throughout.
The entire cast is delightful from front to back. I wasn’t sure how anyone could compete with Julie Andrews’ incarnation of Mary, but Emily Blunt does an equally fabulous job during both the stern and silly moments. The icing on the cake for viewers is the appearances by Julie Walters as the Banks’ steadfast housekeeper, Meryl Streep as zany Cousin Topsy, Colin Firth as the wicked president of the bank, Angela Lansbury as the sweet balloon vender in the park, and Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr. (in addition to the chimney-sweeper Bert, he played Mr. Dawes Sr. in the original). A ripple of excitement went over the audience as each appeared on screen to weave their magic.
The musical numbers were the biggest miss overall as there are no standout hits like “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”; although offerings like “Can You Imagine That?”, “A Cover Is Not the Book”, and “Nowhere to Go But Up” sure did try hard. However, the miss was minimal, and even though the songs lacked instant memorability, the entire soundtrack was catchy and compelling and regularly made my toes tap along to the beat.
There are a number of clever connections to the original film including Jane Banks following in her mother Winifred’s steps as an activist, Winifred’s sash as the tail of the children’s kite, an appearance of the snowglobe used during the “Feed the Birds” song, and the dancing penguins from the fair. Additionally, there were a number of parallels, such as the visits to Uncle Albert’s in the original being echoed by the visits to Cousin Topsy’s in the sequel. As a big fan of the original, I immediately wanted to watch the two films back-to-back to see what other connections I could find. Dissenters might say this made the film an unoriginal second offering, but I believe the similarities only increased the charm while honoring the original.
Special effects and computer animations have come a long way since 1964. However, the look and feel of the set and the animated imagination sequences in “Mary Poppins Returns” all stayed consistent with the original. Each of these scenes has the same joy-filled exuberance as the original and yet offered up the same level of fun and frivolity.
With a flood of live action remakes of classics like “Aladdin”, “Lion King”, and “Dumbo”, it would be easy to worry that Disney is merely recycling proven winners in a hasty cash-grabbing phase. However, if Disney takes the same care for each of these other titles and captures the same spirit as they did for the beloved “Mary Poppins”, the classics are in safe hands. This updated but still familiar take respectfully balances the new with the old and is “practically perfect in every way”.
Amy Kellestine is an educator, engineer, Arati life coach and entrepreneur living in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends her free time camping, gardening, and volunteering for causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and nature conservation. She is a devoted mother and is passionate about helping others and writing.