Get ready to take a stroll back down Cherry Tree Lane because everyone’s favourite magical nanny returns for another fun-filled imaginative adventure in Mary Poppins Returns.
In 1930s London, Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) are now grown-up, with Michael still living in the house on Cherry Tree Lane. He lives there with his three children, Annabel, John, and George, and the housekeeper named Ellen. After Michael suffers a personal loss, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) comes back to the Banks family with street lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda ), and eccentric cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep).
Everyone knows of the magic of Mary Poppins, a fun-filled family adventure that is considered a timeless classic, and now director Rob Marshall (Chicago) is ready to take audiences back for another feel-good adventure with Mary Poppins Returns and there’s magic at every turn. Setting his film up as a continuation of the original story, Marshall places his audience in the dire circumstances of the Banks Family who on the verge of bankruptcy have seemed to have lost all hope in the middle of the Great Slump. That is until delightful magical nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) arrives back on the scene to help balance out all accounts…along with a bit of pixie dust thrown in for good measure.
Taking up the magical umbrella of everyone’s favourite flying nanny Emily Blunt truly makes the role of Mary Poppins her own and she is practically perfect in every way as the character. Poised and polished, Blunt once again captures this classic characters eternal optimism and is the primer for the Banks family to rediscover ideas of imagination and wonder and ultimately leads them to discover that no matter what they can always count on each other as a family. Blunt also gets the opportunity to let her voice be heard and she proves herself a true songbird with the performance of a number of terrific tunes including the likes of ‘Can You Imagine That’ and ‘The Royal Doulton Music Hall’. It’s clear from her performance that she’s having a blast from beginning to end as the character and watching her you’ll find yourself smiling with happiness as she inspires your own imagination to set itself free.
Lending Blunt a hand in the film is the musically gifted Lin-Manuel Miranda in the role of go-getting lamplighter Jack who proves himself a great companion. Miranda’s Jack passionately believes in the wonder of Mary Poppins and his knowledge of London leads Mary and the children on a journey that takes them to many unexpected places. Then there’s his superb vocal range and dancing talents and they find themselves chanelled up onto the screen in remarkably inspiring songs such as ‘(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky’, and he’s also able to show off his characters spot-on cockney accent. Miranda complements Blunt’s performance perfectly and the pair have a great back and forth rhythm between the two of them that reminded me of the theatrics of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
As a feat of production Mary Poppins Returns is simply enormous and its reliance on both the practical and the digital leads the way for some truly striking visuals. Marshall and collaborating production designer John Myhre and costumer Sandy Powell fill the film out with a colourful candy coloured pallete that pulls you into the film’s fairytale narrative. The details really do shine through here and everything fits together perfectly from the falling cheery blossoms to the fantastical worlds that Mary, Jack and the children find themselves strolling through. It’s as if with Mary Poppins Returns that Marshall is not shooting his film with cameras and lenses, but rather painting it with bright strokes of watercolour. It’s most definitely a visual treat and every frame offers up another breathtaking sight to capture your attention and pull you into this magical, fantastical canvas.
It wouldn’t be Mary Poppins without a rousing musical score and the best of the best has been assembled for this production. Composer Marc Shaiman and lyricist Scott Wittman offer up a treasure chest of soon to be instant classics with songs like ‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic’, ‘Turning Turtle’ and ‘Nowhere To Go But Up’ and in both musical composition and lyrical arrangement there’s a present feeling of unanimous joy. Shaiman and Wittman also experiment with a vast arrange of styles and themes from classical music to big brass jazz along with a sprinkling of modern hip-hop and rhythm and blues, and all of it will wrap you up inside the film’s marvellous story.
Filled to the brim with magic and imagination, Mary Poppins Returns is an utterly charming film that will warm your heart up with love and joy and is a perfect watch for the whole family this holiday season.
Image: Walt Disney Pictures