- 4.5 out of 5
Mary Poppins Returns - it's another sweet spoonful of sugar.
They have managed to capture lightening in a bottle...again.
Disney's Mary Poppins Returns is a musical set in the 1930s, more than two decades after the events of the original Mary Poppins. Siblings Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) are now adults, and Michael, a recent widower, lives in his childhood home with his three children: John (Nathanel Saleh), Anabel (Pixie Davies), and Georgie (Joel Dawson) -- and their put-upon housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters). But he's having trouble making ends meet. The next generation of Banks kids are in for a treat when Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to Cherry Tree Lane to care for them and teach the entire family valuable lessons with a little help from Cockney lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda). When the bank, under the management of William Weatherall Wilkins (Colin Firth), calls Michael and Jane's loan in, everyone does their best to make sure that the Banks family doesn't lose their beloved home.
Blunt unquestionably makes Mary Poppins her own while also keeping nostalgic viewers happy with tributes to the original in this whimsical, playful sequel. Director Rob Marshall loves making big-budget Hollywood musicals, and in Mary Poppins Returns, he creates a delightful world .
Everything from the amazing production design to the colourful costumes to the catchy, upbeat songs penned by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (a few of which contain references to the Sherman Bros.' original 1964 score) has that Disney glow. The performances are all good, with Blunt leading the way. Miranda's Cockney accent is (thankfully) a little subtler than Dick van Dyke's was. They're old friends who show the three Banks kids how to be imaginative and helpful. Whishaw and Mortimer are well cast as the grown-up Michael and Jane, and Meryl Streep memorably joins the proceedings as Poppins' eccentric cousin Topsy.
If there's a relatively weak spot in the movie, it's the plot, which is fairly thin and predictable (many moviegoers will figure out exactly where those missing bank documents are), but you don't watch a Disney musical expecting Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-style twists. The musical numbers are especially fun and it's a pleasure to see Blunt and Miranda sing and dance together.
Hamilton fans are rewarded with the big, Miranda-led lamplighters' song "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" (a clear successor to the original's "Step in Time"), and his and Blunt's rousing vaudeville duet "A Cover Is Not the Book" is also quite memorable. The lullaby "The Place Where Lost Things Go" is lovely, and "Nowhere to Go But Up" will make audiences remember the joy of "Let's Go Fly a Kite." Will this sequel replace the original in moviegoers' hearts? Probably not. But it's still a sweet spoonful of sugar. Go see it, immerse yourself in the Poppins' world and you will find your toe tapping and smiling from ear to ear.