Mary Poppins Returns is a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious experience for the whole family


graphic by Jacob Blue

Mary Poppins Returns is old and new at the same time.

by Jacob Blue, Editor

Disney released the long-anticipated sequel to the beloved movie Mary Poppins, bringing a new generation to 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Mary Poppins Returns is directed by Rob Marshall who is known for directing films like Into the Woods and Chicago.

The world seems to be ready for more movie musicals.  Executive producer Marc Platt also produced La La Land.  The movie music is composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Wittman and Shaiman do a fantastic job capturing the magic and wonder of Mary Poppins while keeping the songs new and fresh.

I loved when Mr. Banks sang, the song “A Conversation” about his dead wife, letting go of his art career, and the memories of his childhood. Its message about something or someone never truly being gone can resonate with almost anyone.

Mary Poppins Returns takes place in Depression-era London,  focusing on the lives of the Banks family as they try to save their house from foreclosure. After Michael Banks’ wife dies, Michael is forced to give up his passion for painting and pursue a career in banking, like his father. After their mother’s passing, the Banks children George, John, and Annabelle must look past the joys of being children in order to help Michael, Aunt Jane, and their family housekeeper Ellen keep afloat.

Everything seems to be falling apart for the Banks family when, out of the clouds, an old friend appears.

Mary Poppins is played by Emily Blunt, and, just like Julie Andrews, she brings a quintessential nature to portraying the character. Blunt that makes Poppins her own while also staying “practically perfect in every way.” Andrews won the Oscar in 1965 for Best Actress for her role as Mary Poppins, and, while Blunt’s performance might not be Oscar-worthy, Blunt does a great job filling those sturdy shoes.

For the first time since 2011, Disney has gone back to its original animation style of 2-D mixed with live-action performances.  This is particularly evident in the Royal Doulton bowl sequence. Watching those anthropomorphic animals sing and dance in this colorful setting brings back waves of nostalgia for everyone in the audience. This sequence also provided two of the catchiest songs in the entire movie with “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” and “A Cover Is Not the Book.” This sequence has comedy, action, and animated singing and dancing penguins: what more could you ask for with a Mary Poppins sequel?

This movie has its fair share of memorable and fun to watch characters, like Jac,k played by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Jack is an energetic “leerie” (the Scottish term for lamplighter) who accompanies Mary Poppins and the Banks children on their adventures. Shaiman and Wittman capitalize on Miranda’s rapping abilities and found a way to show off his skills by giving him a rapping segment with a Disney twist in the song “A Cover Is Not the Book.”

As a lamplighter, Jack moves around the city on a bicycle, which gives the director the opportunity to have a dance scene with trick bikes and ladders.  

Weaving Miranda’s rapping talents into the story like this, is similar to how Dick Van Dyke was given a lot of physical comedy and dance numbers when he portrayed Bert, the chimney sweep in the original Mary Poppins.

Dick Van Dyke gives a special cameo as Mr. Dawes Jr. Seeing the 92-year-old Van Dyke back on the big screen tap dancing and singing is a special moment in cinematic history that only Mary Poppins can bring.

Other cameos include Angela Lansbury as balloon lady. Lansberry is well known for playing Mrs. Potts in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Hearing her iconic voice sing “Nowhere to Go But Up” brought a smile to my face.

Academy award-winning actress, Meryl Streep gets to provide one of the wackiest sequences in the entire movie. Topsy is a cousin of Mary Poppins. Jack, Mary, and the Banks children visit her to restore their mother’s broken Royal Doulton bowl. Topsy’s accent itself got people in the audience laughing. The ability to make a character her own has always been one of Streep’s defining qualities as an actress.

One of the biggest criticism as I have of the film is that of the antagonist. Colin Firth portrays William Weatherall Wilkins, the head of the bank. At first, he seems like a compassionate and sensible man, by reassuring Michael and Jane that he will do everything in his power to help them keep their home, but then, two seconds later, he burns important documents that could’ve saved the Banks’ house.

In recent movies, Disney has really latched onto the idea of a surprise villain in films like Frozen, Coco, Zootopia, Incredibles 2, and Big Hero 6. At first, it was cool to find out that someone who we thought was helping the protagonist actually was plotting against them, but now it has become a clichéd uninspired trope that is a distraction from the overall story.

Anyone who is a fan of the original Mary Poppins will see the way each song in this new movie mirrors or references the first.  For example, Meryl Streep’s song, “Turning Turtle” and her character, recall Uncle Albert’s song “I Love to Laugh” in the original.  Meryl Streep even lives in the same alley as Uncle Albert.

The movie’s main theme is optimism, the idea that anything is possible, even the impossible. Making sure to never lose sight of what really matters in life. This is the story the world needs right now, It is truly a gift to the world. Mary Poppins returns provides A fun heartwarming experience that will have you reaching for the tissue box.  Go see it before it leaves the theaters.