Mary Poppins Returns is an American musical fantasy film directed by Rob Marshall, with a screenplay written by David Magee and a story by Magee, Marshall and John DeLuca. Based on the book series Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers the film is a sequel to the 1964 film Mary Poppins and stars Emily Blunt with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth and Meryl Streep.
The sequel picks up in London during the 1930’s great depression with the now grown-up Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer). Michael has three children of his own and is struggling in the wake of his wife’s passing both emotionally and financially. Unable to continue his career as a full-time artist he works part-time at the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, the same place his father used to work. Michael unintentionally gets behind in repaying a loan from the bank and is informed that they intend to foreclose on his house by the end of the week.
When Michael and Jane remember that their father had a share in the bank that should cover the expenses they begin the hunt to find the written proof required to stop the house from being repossessed. Luckily for them their former nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) arrives to lend a hand and she quickly takes Michael’s children under her wing with the help of Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a lamplighter who first met Mary whilst working as an apprentice to her old friend Bert. The arrival of Mary helps to inject some fun and magic back into the Banks’ lives.
Whilst the film is based on an original story it also adapts elements and characters from the Mary Poppins sequel novels that Travers wrote and the original Disney film which enables it to honour the spirit of both. Following the same structure as the original film it moves along at a fast pace helped by its song and dance numbers.
Many of the musical sequences harken back to those in the original most notably the live-action/animated Royal Doulton bowl segment and the lamplighter scene. Whilst the new musical numbers are catchy they are on not the same level as the iconic tunes by the Sherman brothers but these scenes are elevated by the dance choreography and great costumes.
Emily Blunt is wonderful as the new Mary Poppins and manages to add her own spin on the character rather than trying to copy Julie Andrew’s performance in the original film. Lin-Manuel Miranda is also equally as good as the replacement for Dick Van Dyke’s Bert.
The supporting roles of the Banks children (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson), housekeeper Ellen (Julie Walters), Mary’s cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep) and the President of the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, William “Weatherall” Wilkins (Colin Firth) are all perfectly cast.
Mary Poppins Returns is a welcome return to the world of Mary Poppins which all ages will enjoy as it captures the magic of the original whilst adding a more modern outlook and style. You could say it is Practically Perfect in every way!