Occasionally you come across a movie that just makes you feel wonderful from start to finish.
Mary Poppins Returns is one of those films.
Basically, the plot has Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place, Into the Woods) returning to help the Banks children – and their children, too, as a kind of fringe benefit.
Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw, London Spy) and his family – Annabel (Pixie Davis, Humans), John (Nathanael Saleh, Game of Thrones) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) – are about to lose their home to the very bank where Michael works.
Despite his sister Jane’s (Emily Mortimer)help , proof of the ownership of shares in the bank is nowhere to be found.
Cue Mary Poppins (who is always referred to by her full name), descending from a stormy sky holding a runaway kite that Georgie was flying.
The biggest differences between Disney’s first Mary Poppins film and this one are: Blunt’s Mary Poppins is at once cooler and sterner and somehow more fun, while the real world of 1930’s London is grimier and feels more real – at least until the various flights of fancy begin.
The result is that the fantasy fun is more vivid by contrast – both in terms of the city and the worlds of fantasy, and Mary Poppins’ cool and stern side and her mischievousness.
Of course, there has to be a villain for Mary Poppins to play off of (though they never actually meet), and Colin Firth’s (the Kingsman films) charming and sly bank manager, Wilkins, is as perfect as you can get.
Lin-Manuel Mirada is a delight as Jack – the lamplighter and sole adult who remembers the wonders of childhood as truth and not imaginings and knows Mary Poppins already.
As with the first film, there are excursions into worlds of animation – one in the bath is CG and spectacular; two more are 2-D, hand drawn set pieces.
All are beautifully rendered/drawn and captivating.
Writer David Magee (Life of Pi) and director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods) have created a film that is so full of joy that the feeling remains hours after seeing it.
Two of Mary Poppins Returns’ songs – The Place Where Lost Things Go and Trip a Little Light Fantastic – have been shortlisted for the Best Song Oscar®, but A Cover is Not a Book is equally as good (and a bit more memorable than the latter).
The songs – by Scott Wittman (lyrics) and Marc Shaiman (lyrics and music) – are mostly excellent, though none is as earwormy as ‘Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious’ (A Cover is Not a Book does come close).
Meryl Streep – as Mary Poppins’ second cousin ‘many, many, many times removed,’ Topsy – is a delight; as are Dick Van Dyke (as bank owner Marcus Dawes Jr.), who has a terrific dance, and Angela Lansbury in a marvelous cameo.
Everything about Mary Poppins Returns – down to the wallpaper of the Banks home.
Mary Poppins Returns is the most purely joyful movie of the year.
Final Grade: A+