You have to be a complete imbecile to never have seen the Disney classic Mary Poppins. The things I loved about that movie are the musical numbers and eccentric characters that make you all giddy; Dick Van Dyke using a fun British accent as Bert the chimney sweep; but most of all, Julie Andrews’ extraordinary performance as the title characters, based on P.L. Travers’ stories.
The 54-year-old sequel (not a remake), “Mary Poppins Returns,” may have a few dust spots from here to there, but its musical numbers, characters, and magical spirit make the sequel worthy. Maybe not as “Supercalifragilisticexpaladocious,” but still close enough.
The movie takes place 20 years later, when siblings Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) are both now grown up. Michael is a widow with three children-Annabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson)-while Jane is a labor organizer. Their home is at risk of repossession, and only their father’s share certificate can save it. Trouble is: they can’t find it.
At the same time, Mary Poppins (now portrayed by Emily Blunt) floats down, apparently the same age, and appoints herself as the new nanny for Michael’s kids. As usual, the kids discover the magical side to her, but this time, Michael thinks it’s all nonsense. Even Mary has to deny what the kids have experienced.
The fantasies here include a bath time sequence, involving Mary and the children swimming and dancing under water; and they enter a traditionally animated world (not CGI, thank goodness), this time, through their mother’s China bowl. You just have to roll with the imagination presented here.
The all-star cast in the movie also includes Lin-Manuel Miranda as Bert’s former apprentice Jack, who’s always had a crush on Jane; Colin Firth as an evil banker; Meryl Streep as Mary’s Topsy Turvey cousin Topsy; Julie Walters as Ellen, the housekeeper; and we get some delightful cameos from Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Dawes, Jr., and Angela Lansbury as a balloon lady.
Some of the dialogue tends to be a bit annoying from time-to-time, but once I saw the well-choreographed musical numbers, colorful fantasies, and delightful characters, my troubles practically went away. Director Rob Marshall has done an amazing job keeping the pure delights of the classic without any generic jokes or cliches. I, myself, was all in a giddy.
And you also have such “Supercalifragilisticexpaladocious” work from Blunt in the ways she keeps Mary Poppins’ dignity and discipline alive. Even Julie Andrews refuses to take any part of this in order to give her the spotlight. The children are splendid, Miranda feels like he’s having a fun time, Firth offers his charms, and Whishaw and Mortimer are both solid as the now-grown-up Banks.
Is “Mary Poppins Returns” better the original? Certainly not! That movie will always be a treasure in the Disney name. But as a sequel (again not a remake), it works hard. No pressure.