Disney’s belated attempt to recreate the magic of yore with this sequel to its 1964 fantasy musical classic that anointed Julie Andrews as an inimical Hollywood singer-actress of distinction, is a magically ensnaring charmer. Mary Poppins Returns, directed by Rob Marshall with Emily Blunt in Julie Andrews’ shoes and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Dick Van Dyke’s, basically shifts its focus to the Banks’ children - now seen as adults with troubles of their own to overcome.
Set in the period the Brits referred to as The Great Slump, the narrative shows unsuccessful artist Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) overcome by debts and struggling to make ends meet for his three children who recently lost their mother. His sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) has given up on love and has become a fervent activist of sorts. And into this depressing scenario pops in Mary Poppins, the magical singing Nanny, who makes all things look so bright and wonderful enough to banish the blues.
P.L. Travers stories have inspired both films – in the original Mary Poppins blows in to tend to the Banks children when their workaholic father couldn’t shower his love on them while in this newer version she pops in flying on a kite (literally) just in time to help the adult Banks’ save their home and regain security in the face of William Weatherall Wilkins (Colin Firth) duplicitous villainy.
Screenwriter David Magee lays out strong emotive foundations through Michael’s lone heartfelt soliloquy and the children’s consequent tender yearning for attention, comfort and security.
Ideally cast with singing actors, graced by melodious songs from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman with musical nods to the Sherman Brothers, this magical movie musical is as much a nostalgia trip as it is a fresh new journey of enchantment. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Jack singing “Underneath the Lovely London Sky,” and "Trip a Little Light Fantastic," performed with a large chorus of his fellow lamplighters on bicycles, Meryl Streep’s Cousin Topsy singing “Turning Turtle, ” Angela Lansbury’s Balloon Lady singing "Nowhere to Go but Up,” and Emily Blunt’s stupendous vocals on “The Royal Doulton Bowl," "Feed the Birds," "The Place Where Lost Things Go," and "A Cover Is Not the Book," are sure to get you gunning for more even without any memories of yore!