Everyone has a favourite childhood movie they have watched so many times, they know it by heart. They dress up as the characters, sing all the songs and look forward to sharing it someday with their own children. For me and millions of others, that movie was Disney's Mary Poppins. The magical nanny appeared when the Banks family needed help, took children Jane and Michael on many adventures and when all was well, left as mysteriously as she arrived. Now, years later, those children are grown with grownup problems and there's no such thing as magic. Or is there? For when Michael's youngest child chases a wayward kite, there she is. Mary Poppins Returnsis a colourful blend of music, animation and live action, which sure to delight a new generation.
Disney has given the new film a story of its own, while also referencing the original. It's set in the early 1930s but Cherry Tree Lane is now rather a gloomy place. Michael (Ben Wishaw) is a widower with three unruly children. His sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer), works as a labour organiser. Despite the cheerful opening song of lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), the family is on the verge of losing their home to the bank. When children Annabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) return from a trip to the park with Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), Michael and Jane react very much like their father did, with suspicion and disbelief. As Mary works her magic with help from Jack and a cast of characters, both real and animated, everyone gradually rediscovers their joy in life.
Like its predecessor, Mary Poppins Returns is full of wonderful music. "Can You Imagine That?" and "The Royal Doulton Music Hall" are wonderful live action/animated showstoppers by Emily Blunt. Her poignant ballad "The Place Where Lost Things Go" acknowledges the children's loss and serves as a lullaby.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is outstanding in the song and dance performance "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" and "The Cover is Not the Book" duet with Blunt - another brilliant live action/animated scene.
Be sure to watch for the delightful Dick Van Dyke – 93 years old and the only actor from the original film – in "Trip A Little Light Fantastic (Reprise)".
I enjoyed the film but had a few reservations. At 2 hours and 10 minutes, it's a bit overlong. One of the animated scenes (where young Georgie is kidnapped by a wolf) might be too scary for young children. But these are small things and like Mary Poppins herself, the movie is "practically perfect in every way".