A childhood favorite based on the works of P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins has held a special place in the heart of children for years. The iconic performance of Julie Andrews in the 1964 movie is extremely difficult to follow. With this in mind, Disney’s 2018 Mary Poppins Returns (in theaters December 19th) has done a fantastic job.
Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has returned to London after 25 years to look after Michael Banks’ children Annabelle (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson), as she did their father. Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer), all grown up, are facing foreclosure in post-Depression London. When an unscrupulous banker (Colin Firth) forecloses on a loan, they can either find a way to pay off the loan or lose their beloved home at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Michael and Jane can hardly believe their eyes when Mary Poppins appears on their doorstep (and they don’t believe their ears when Georgie tells them that she flew in on the other end of his kite). Mary takes the Banks children on an adventure to regain the childhood magic lost when their mother died, with the help of Mary’s cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep) and eccentric lamp-lighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda).
First of all, the graphics were spectacular. The special effects are no less than one has come to expect from Disney’s reputation, and a definite improvement from the original movie. In addition to that, the acting is absolutely phenomenal. There are some moments when the characters differ from their 1963 counterparts, but anything that seems out of place is quickly left behind, replaced with all of the magic and wonder you know and love.
A well known staple of Disney is their music. Since 1938’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, their movies have been producing some of the best earworms in the business. Mary Poppins Returns certainly meets all of the expectations when it comes to the songs. In terms of the actual vocals, however, the new film does not quite meet the very high bar set by the original. This is mostly due to the unparalleled vocals of Julie Andrews, whose singing voice far outstrips that of Blunt’s. This isn’t to say that Blunt isn’t a great singer. It’s that Andrews is a far better singer than just about anybody.
Another thing worth mentioning is the ridiculously hard choreography. Especially for the lamplighters, some parts can be incredibly difficult to pull off (riding bikes on rooftops, etc.) In one scene near the beginning, Jack has to light a lamp, ride a bicycle past an apple cart, steal an apple, and throw it to an orphan child, all while singing in a Cockney accent. Lin-Manuel Miranda accomplishes this feat with unbelievable precision.
Not only has Blunt done an amazing job of making the role of Mary Poppins her own, the entire production is a work of art all of its own. Sure, we see many of the lovable figures and some of the same sequence of events from the first movie, but the show is also full of new and original characters, songs, and events.
I would highly recommend this film for anybody and everybody. For those who have seen the first one, it’s a fun and new twist on a nostalgic masterpiece. For those who haven’t, it is a soon-to-be favorite to hold close to your heart. At the end of the day, there will only be one Julie Andrews. There will only be one original Mary Poppins. Even so, there will also only be one Emily Blunt, and only one original Mary Poppins Returns.