My wife and I were nervous walking into the movie theater to see Mary Poppins Returns. Mary Poppins possesses a special meaning to us as I was in the stage version of Mary Poppins when we first met. Therefore, we were holding our breath as the movie began.
However, that fear of failure melted away as we were transported back to Cherry Tree Lane.
The story, cast, songs, animation, and more sealed the deal and made Mary Poppins Returns the best movie of the year!
Mary Poppins Returns tips it’s hat to the original, but the film stands on its own as a musical adventure through imagination and magic. The story tackles hard issues such as death, financial hardship, and children believing they need to be adults. Incorporating these themes allows Mary Poppins to create magic for the Banks children and the audience. It felt like a film Walt Disney himself would have made. The film was fun and magically, but it had the depth the original had.
Emily Blunt is brilliant as Mary Poppins! Not once did I compare her to Julie Andrews, but I was enthralled by what she brought to the role. Her wit and humor were spot on, but she was graceful during moments of tenderness. Lin-Manuel Miranda stole the show as Jack with his songs, humor, and genuine quality. What surprised me, however, was how superb the cast in general was. The biggest surprise was Ben Winshaw as Michael Banks and Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks. Winshaw and Mortimer brought depth to these characters and helped us feel empathy for the struggles they faced. Also, the new Banks children played by Pixie Davis, Nathaneal Saleh, and Joel Dawson was amazing. They brought innocents to a complicated story and allowed the audience to be moved at moments.
The songs of Mary Poppins Returns are in the mold of the songs written by the Sherman Brothers for the original film. Yes, some songs played better than others, but every song didn’t feel out of place. The song I believe everyone will fall in love with will be “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” sung by Jack and the lamplighters. It was like watching an old-time musical with dance sequences, new songs every few minutes and a solid story to back up the music. I can only imagine the money Disney will make from the soundtrack alone.
A few special moments completed this film for me. First, seeing Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr. was worth the price of the ticket on its own. I had goosebumps as he danced on screen and brought the story full circle. Second, the animation sequence was a breath of fresh air in a world of computer animation. I found myself in awe at how perfect that sequence was and made me hope that Disney would see how much hand-drawn animation is missed.
Finally, the movie had Easter eggs from the original movie. What I loved is some of these tie-ins were crucial to the plot and paid off nicely.
After writing this review, I want to go back and see this movie again. There was so much magic packed into two hours that it’s not enough to merely see it once. My expectations were met and then some. I couldn’t be more elated with Mary Poppins Returns and hope the world believes the same.