By Edward Baillargeon
Of all the live-action films produced by Walt Disney, none have had as massive of an impact on par with his animated films like Mary Poppins, and rightfully so. The original 1964 musical based on the novels by P.L. Travers was the definition of a feel-good family musical with the right spoonful of sugar. It had a well-written story, spectacular visuals, unforgettable songs by the Sherman Brothers, and an Oscar winning, and star-making, performance from Julie Andrews as the titular magical nanny. And now, 54 years after the first film’s release, Disney has brought Mary back to the big screen with Mary Poppins Returns.
In Depression-era London, a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, along with Michael’s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.
Even if it has been extremely long time, Mary Poppins Returns manages to recapture the magic of the original spectacularly well. While the story may have some similar plot beats to the first, it changes up some aspects to make it familiar with some new additions in the execution. Director Rob Marshall directs the musical numbers excellently with the stellar choreography, which is no surprise coming from the veteran musical director of Chicago and Into the Woods.
And speaking of the songs, they are really fun toe-tappers that have that familiar magic of the songs from the original with quiet melodies like “The Place Where Lost Things Go” and “A Conversation” or fun and grand numbers like “Trip A Little Light Fantastic” and “A Cover Is Not the Book”. The songs make this movie have a must-own soundtrack that is a great successor and will leave a smile on many viewers’ faces.
The movie also looks spectacular visually capturing the two distinct looks between the foggy look of Depression-era London. And also the various colorful worlds that Mary Poppins takes the Banks children to over the course of the film with some stellar hand-drawn animation provided by animators at Duncan Studio and even from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. This would be not only a callback to one of the best sequences in the original, but also a breath of fresh air to animation fans who are sick of seeing computers everywhere on the big screen.
The actors also amazing and well-cast in each of their respective roles. Even with a high order to fill, Emily Blunt is a great successor to Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, capturing her magic, wit, and sassiness with excellence and is like she herself said best, “Is practically perfect in every way.” Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda does the best he can as lamplighter Jack, but he is no Dick Van Dyke. Other standouts include Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer as Michael & Jane Banks, as well as appearances from Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, and Meryl Streep.
Overall, Mary Poppins Returns is a fun crowd-pleaser musical and a worthy sequel to the original with all of the right ingredients that made the first film a masterpiece. With a well-written, if somewhat familiar, story, great performances, stunning visuals, and fun songs, this sequel captures the magic and child-like innocence of the original. If you are a fan of Mary Poppins, Disney films, musicals, or just want a great family film for all ages during the winter season, then this is a must-watch. I’m going to give Mary Poppins Returns a 9/10 with the Edward’s Seal of Approval.