MARY POPPINS RETURNS begins with a song-and-dance number in the early morning of London where the fog is still on the ground. A street lamplighter named Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wore the music for HAMILTON) brings the audience into the spirit of things.
Set in 1930s London, which is the time period of the original novels by P. L. Travers, the story follows Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer), who are now grown up. Michael is living with his three children (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson) and housekeeper Ellen (Julie Walters), in the house on Cherry Tree Lane. After Michael has a personal loss, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) comes back into the lives of the Banks family. No details on how Michael lost his wife.
The songs are ok for the first half and turns lively and catchy in the second half. The Sherman Brothers who wrote the songs for the original POPPINS have music credits in this one. None of the songs in the original are sung in this one, but a few chords of “For a Spoonful of Sugar”, “Feed the Bird” and ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite” can be heard on the soundtrack. A song “Trip a Little Light-fantastic’ reminds on of “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. The musical number with the lamp-lights runs similar to the musical number performed by the chimney sweeps on the rooftops in the original.
A few magical segments brighten up the story. The three children go on wild adventures like into the bathtub with Mary or into rotating ornament. The grownups disbelieve and the children point to Mary Poppins. “Mary Poppins never explains.” These are the same words uttered in both movies.
A bit of romance is inserted in the story between Jack and Jane – not too much, just a hint for artistic purposes.
Emily Mortimer was the special guest present at the special screening. She praised director Rob Marshall forms vision and one can see his vision realized in the picture – from the imaginative musical numbers to the impressive magical adventures.
The film contains three super cameos. The first is Meryl Streep playing a Mary Poppin’s cousin, Topsy. With a thick Eastern European accent with coloured hair, bright rags and pearls and necklaces, her musical number is one lively inspiration that turns the film at its midpoint from mediocre to excellent fare. After Streep’s appearance, the film goes uphill right to the heights of the floating balloons at the film’s end, the balloons given by Angela Lansbury, the balloon lady breaking out in song. Lansbury has been in a magical musical Poppins type hit years back, the memorable BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS. But the best cameo of all is Dick Van Dyke, aged masterfully playing Mr. Dawes Jr., the son of Mr. Dawes Sr., who he played in the first film. Julie Andrews turned down the offer of a cameo.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS arrives 54 years after the original Julie Andrews musical. It is a long but worthwhile wait. It is indeed good to feel like a child again.