Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
What was it like to live during The Great Depression?
Rediscovering joy and wonder in our lives
Never lose hope
World War 2
Fantasy imaginary magic
|Featuring:||Emily Blunt … Mary Poppins
Meryl Streep … Topsy—Mary Poppins’s eccentric cousin
Angela Lansbury … Balloon Lady
Emily Mortimer … Jane Banks—Michael’s sister
Ben Whishaw … Michael Banks—Jane’s brother
Colin Firth … William Weatherall Wilkins—the current president of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank
Julie Walters … Ellen—Michael’s housekeeper
Dick Van Dyke … Mr. Dawes Jr.
Lin-Manuel Miranda … Jack—a lamplighter
David Warner … Admiral Boom
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|Director:||Rob Marshall —“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (2011), “Chicago” (2002), “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005)|
Marc Platt Productions
Walt Disney Pictures
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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
It’s taken fifty plus years for a sequel to one of Disney’s most beloved films to arrive on the big screen, but this splendid musical is well worth the wait.
Life is a bit dour on Cherry Tree Lane since Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) lost his wife. An artist at heart and banker by day, he’s left to tend his three energetic and high-spirited children alone—the by-the-book, cautious and logical Anabel (Pixie Davis), the reliable and sensible John (Nathanael Saleh), and the idealistic and adventurous Georgie (Joel Dawson). Michael’s sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) helps whenever she can get away from her social causes.
The same day the sink bursts in the Banks’ kitchen, two lawyers arrive from the bank to nail up a notice on their front door. Unless Michael can pay back the loans he took out to cover his wife’s deathbed expenses in full, the bank will repossess the house. Left with few options, he despairs. But just when the hour seems its most dour, a wayward kite blows the “practically perfect” Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) into their lives. Along with a street lamp lighter named Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), she brings magic once more into the Banks household, in her quest to reunite Michael with his childhood optimism and delight and save them all from ruin.
As memorable as it is whimsical, this film sparkles from start to finish with unexpected cameos, charismatic performances, toe-tapping musical numbers, colorful costuming amid the bleak London atmosphere, and a childlike sense of innocence and wonder. It follows most of the cinematic beats of the original (complete with a hand-drawn animated sequence, a band of merry lamplighters showing off their dancing skills, and a dramatic confrontation at the bank), while introducing new songs and faces.
There are many subtle throwbacks to the original, sometimes in the form of one-liners, which I’m delighted to say tickled the children in the row behind me. It plays out as an over-reaching plot arc with a series of vignettes woven throughout as Mary Poppins opens the children’s eyes to seeing things “in a different light.” For me, the music is not nearly as memorable as the original numbers, but it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise entertaining film full of hope, innocence, optimism, and cheer.
There’s not much to concern families in terms of immoral content—one song references a woman who wore little more than a fig leaf, making a joke out of “when you go bare there’s not much to steal,” and referencing her “birthday suit.” Mary Poppins’ cousin makes a couple of flirtatious remarks about Jack, as does the cook (“I’d say he’s lit her fire!”); a woman makes a pun out of “bottoms” (her backside).
The children face mildly perilous situations on two occasions (being kidnapped, and chased by villains).
The magical content is the same as in the earlier film. Mary takes the children on magical adventures—into a ceramic bowl and an underwater world. She slides up staircases on the railing, sends people whirling into the air holding balloons, and flies to and fro with her umbrella, with nary a hint of where her magic comes from.
As in most Disney movies, the message is that family is more important than wealth, good always triumphs over evil, and you should never lose hope. Mary teaches the children, their father, and her cousin the importance of learning to look at things in a new and optimistic way, rather than allowing troubles to make them downcast. She orchestrates events so the Banks family learns lessons and saves themselves along the way. She also scolds their bad manners… and is a delightful character in her own right—a little egocentric, compassionate but firm, and above all, adventurous.
It’s a fine film and, I suspect, one the adults who grew up with the beloved Julie Andrews original will have as much fun watching as their children.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.