Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns


Burnishing Old-school, kite-flying, Cockney-cavorting nostalgia to a high gloss, Disney’s improbable sequel – coming a full 54 years after the original fantasy – is a risk that pays off, magically. Mary Poppins Returns is a defiantly backward-glancing musical, not only in its gaslit 1930s London (the days of the “Great Slump,” as we learn), but also via its orchestral sweep, supplied by ace composer-lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who nail the retro mood.

And still, even though this is a treat for audiences of a certain age, flashes of modernity sneak through in Emily Blunt’s side-eye wink of a starring turn, purring through her impeccable pronunciation. “One never discusses a woman’s age,” she snaps at the mystified now-grown-up family she all but re-adopts as her new personal project when, a generation later, her nannying is needed. Mary’s umbrella-assisted descent from the skies is a stand-up-and-cheer moment (as is a fleet-footed cameo by 92-year-old Dick Van Dyke), but there’s a deeper satisfaction in the songcraft that gives a thirty-something Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) the quiet, McCartney–esque A Conversation pitched amid his grief and loneliness. He’s a widower.

That is to say, there are kids in this update (a trio of relentlessly upbeat adorables) but they’re incidental to the real kids: lost adults who can’t get a handle on life’s realities. Like the 1964 landmark, the new movie vibrates with economic anxiety – this time, the threat comes from the problems of house repossession and homelessness.

The movie’s response is British in the most wonderful way: socially minded, mind-blowing (brace for some truly colourful animation) and optimistic. Mary, for all her chipper rectitude, is the film’s character of compassion. When Blunt, in strong voice, sings a new song, The Place Where Lost Things Go (an exquisite lullaby that already feels like a classic), she’s offering up a cosmic coping strategy. “There’s nowhere to go but up,” sings the cast, buoyed by balloons and a hope that’s been gone too long.

An updated version of the nanny that fixes everyone’s problems

For this year’s sweetest surprise hit

Rob Marshall

Dec 27 (PG)

By Joshua Rothkopf | 02 Jan 2019


Mary Poppins Returns
DirectorRob Marshall
CastingEmily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw