'Mary Poppins Returns' (2018) Movie Review

Updated on December 25, 2018
John Plocar profile image

Why do these movies depict babysitting to be so complex, there's nothing to it. Slip bourbon in juice & you're good. Joking. Don't do that.

Disney’s Whimsical Return of the Magical Nanny

Mary Poppins Returns can be summed up in one word, “adorable”. This was simply adorable to watch all the way through and was possibly the cutest movie I’ve seen this year. No need for sugar to help this one go down! Ha, ha. Yes I know, cheeky, but this movie honestly put me in a good mood much like how the original did as a child for me. Growing up with the 1964 original musical, I grew quite close with the material, so going into this I was optimistic but also slightly wary. The wariness quickly disintegrated within the first act of the movie. It was charming, tremendously sweet, well made, filled with catchy songs and didn’t have a cynical bone in its body; much akin to Julie Andrews classic. I’m sure though that P.L. Travers, like with the Disney film, wouldn’t approve of this sequel if she were still alive; so if you don’t care for Disney’s Mary Poppins for reasons similar to Travers’ then I would suggest not attempting to sit through Mary Poppins Returns since this is a direct spiritual successor to the musical. At least not in the theater. For everyone else who loves the first movie, I believe should find a lot to enjoy in this sequel.

The Plot

Taking place a couple of decades after the events of Mary Poppins’ first visit with the Banks family, little Michael and Jane Banks have grown up and now Michael has children of his own. Sadly going through a family tragedy with Michael’s wife, he and the children are grieving when it turns out the bank that Michael works for is demanding full payment on a loan he had taken out or they will repossess their home. That’s when a familiar figure emerges from the sky to help the family out once again through her clever wits and a little bit of magic too. Together they hope to keep their house and figure out how to persevere against their loss as well.

The Magic Is In The Writing

The cast of Mary Poppins Returns
The cast of Mary Poppins Returns
The original cast of Mary Poppins
The original cast of Mary Poppins

Sometimes when it comes to certain long awaited sequels with particularly larger time gaps than most, the movie can run into rehashing and trying to replicate the lightning in the bottle too much to where it doesn’t feel that it could truly stand on its own. Mary Poppins Returns can stand on its own. There are certainly nods and homages scattered throughout the sequel, but it never feels as though its being condescending or relies to heavily on someone seeing the first to understand the second. Something that I really admire about this movie; a person walking into Returns without any prior knowledge of its predecessor can come out of this perfectly fine while someone who is close with the first movie can enjoy and even get a few extra things out of the experience. It is such a bright and happily optimistic movie that it does fill the heart with cheer to see Mary Poppins up to some shenanigans again. Especially with how imaginative these sequences can get, there’s just a lot of fun to be had here, but there’s also somewhat heavier themes presented as well compared to the first. This time around there is mention of death and the effects on the loved ones after the fact, while this could have been something to bring down the tone into being too depressing, the writing actually handles the subject matter fairly well. The few darker moments are sad and I definitely felt for these characters, but film knew how long to linger on scenes like this and when to move on without breaking tone. It flowed naturally from the happy times to the sadder times very well.

The songs are all terrifically done, it really feels like the writers did their homework on the first movie to capture that gleeful spirit to weave into their own music. I could watch the two films back to back and not feel any drastic difference in terms of tone or spirit. There are a few times where I could tell a song would be their own reinterpretation of something from the original soundtrack, but they were so well done along with some impressive choreography that I didn’t have any real problem with it. I was smiling and tapping my foot as I listened to these grin inducing songs. They pacing never slowed down too much for me to become bored, but it also knew the right moments to let the audience catch a breath to avoid being overwhelming. Any time things might seem to possibly begin to drag, another wonderful song would play with terrifically creative set pieces that was a joy to watch as the dance choreography would interact in clever ways. And on the other hand when it got close to filling too much time up with an abundance of music and constant movement, it knew how to slow down for a beautifully quiet moment. It’s a difficult balance, but it pulls it off skillfully.

It was a huge delight to see how this film carried over a lot of the same style from the original movie; I don’t just mean in camera work, songwriting or dance numbers, I mean with certain effects that Returns brings back. For example, the classic Disney style animation that was seen in the original is here as well and it is magnificent to see it again. The animation is perfect in how well it matches with the ’64 film, making this feel more in line with being a true sequel rather than being in name only.

As I Live And Breathe…

Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins
Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins

Everyone knows how great Julie Andrews is as Mary Poppins, hell, everyone knows how great she is as an actress. She is so iconic as the role of Mary that to think of someone else walking in to fill her shoes is absurd, right? Emily Blunt had a lot to live up to. Watching Blunt in this movie, I sat there the whole time never once thinking, “This is Emily Blunt as Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins”. I thought, “This is Mary Poppins”. Emily Blunt lives and breathes being Mary Poppins exactly as Julie Andrews did all those years ago. There isn’t another, more perfect casting choice to fill these shoes. I couldn’t believe how quickly I accepted her as Mary, from the smallest detail in mannerisms, Emily nails it flawlessly. I loved watching her just as I love watching Andrews in the original. I could have a double feature night and not think twice about the casting, it just simply is watching Mary Poppins. She’s likable, she’s funny, she’s charming, and she’s always one step ahead of everyone. It’s as though nothing has changed.

Fly Into A Theater Near You?

If you are a fan of the original movie or if you have a fondness for musicals in generally, especially the Golden Aged Hollywood style of musicals then this should be right up your alley. It’s genuinely endearing with a real sweet heart in its writing, entertaining songs and dance sequences, cool special effects, fantastic scope of wonder, and all around talented actors being ridiculously charming. I had a really good time with this and I hope that you do too. So grab your umbrella and fly on over to the theater immediately! Or the safer route would be to drive. Your choice.

© 2018 John Plocar


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