Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Poppins Returns is a sequel, not a remake, to the much beloved 1964 original Mary Poppins. This movie picks up about twenty years after the first with young Michael and Jane Banks all grown up in 1930s London. Michael's wife has recently passed leaving behind three young children of their own. Times are tough for the Banks family as they've gotten behind on their bills and the bank is after their home. The kids have had to grow up too fast and are doing their best to help their father. Enter Mary Poppins to help out... and remind them to be kids.
I must admit, I'm not the biggest Mary Poppins fan... I grew up with a mom who thought Mary's practically perfect in every way demeanor was off-putting, so the showings in my house were quite limited. As I've gotten older and have come to appreciate musical movies more, Mary has snuck her way back into my heart. It's also no secret if you know me how much I absolutely ADORE Lin-Manuel Miranda, so an opportunity to see him finally star on the silver screen was thrilling! And of course, the buzz around Emily Blunt's performance had me more than excited to see this movie as soon as I could. I tell you this so you're well aware of any bias I may have before we dive in.
Let's start with the woman of the hour, Emily Blunt. I've long been a fan of hers, and it felt like she was always meant to play this role. She is an effortless Mary with the perfect, subtle facial expressions at every moment. Her voice is absolutely lovely and she glides about with an ease that draws you in. Watching her share the screen with Lin-Manuel Miranda was purely delightful. He plays Jack the lamplighter, who is an obvious tribute to the amazing Dick Van Dyke's Burt the chimney sweep. They have a beautiful chemistry without a hint of anything beyond a friendship. (That admiration we saw in the original from this role is reserved for the adorable Jane Banks.) Their song and dance numbers are a blast and very well-executed. Lin-Manuel Miranda's cockney accent was just subtle enough that it wasn't distracting. He brings such a charming presence to the film. As a massive Hamilton fan, it was so fun to see him really strut his stuff in "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" and "A Cover Is Not a Book."
The children do a remarkable job carrying a lot of the load in this movie, which is a very tall order. They have wonderful chemistry with all of their adult counterparts from Mary and Jack to Michael and their Aunt Jane. Colin Firth and Meryl Streep have small roles and do a fine job. Meryl's role definitely plays homage to the original's Uncle Albert, and is a bit goofy. I recommend just enjoying watching Meryl do her thing here and not to read too much into it. The REAL treats are a couple of special cameos that you know are coming, but will still make your smile even bigger. I'll leave it at that!
The only real problem I had with Mary Poppins Returns was the very predictable plot. Many will catch on to the movie's biggest mystery early on... I sure did. But, in fairness, it did not take away how fun and delightful this movie is. Let's be honest, you can't be expecting the world's most earth-shattering plot twist when seeing a light-hearted Disney movie! The callbacks to the original movie were well-placed and not too heavy handed. This sequel does a wonderful job paying respects to its predecessor. I'm happy to call it just a teaspoon of sugar. It won't replace the original as a full spoonful, but this was a treat to be sure.
Brit's pro tip: Go into Mary Poppins Returns ready to turn off your brain, soak in the nostalgia and smile for a little over two hours. It's a blast if you just enjoy it for what it is!