Mary Poppins Returns is much like cotton candy. You'll enjoy it in the moment but it won't satisfy you in the long run.
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She’s back. We never thought we’d see her again and she brings with her a signature wit and style. That’s right boys and girls Mary Poppins Returns.
This time however Mary Poppins is looking a little different. She is portrayed by the always charming Emily Blunt. Along with a whole new cast and an adventure set, decades after the last one Mary Poppins Returns hopes to capture the same magic that we all fell in love with when we were children.
Now adults Michael (Ben Wishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) Banks are living their lives getting by day by day. Jane works as a union rep helping out the workers of London. She lives in an apartment but still visits her brother often. Michael tries to take care of his three children after losing his wife the previous year. He is further put under duress by the fact that he gave up his passion for art to become a bank teller at the same bank his father once worked at.
As the film opens the audience and the Banks family learn that they will soon be thrown out of their house due to an overdue loan that Michael cannot pay.
Not sure what to do or whom to call on for assistance the children go out on their daily trip to get the groceries. Along the way, the youngest Banks child Georgie (Joel Dawson) comes across the kite that Michael and Jane used to play with when they were children. The winds pick up and begin to pull him into the sky. His brother John ( Nathanael Saleh) and sister Annabel (Pixie Davies) chase after him until Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) a lamplighter saves him.
As they begin to pull against the kite to try and reign it in they notice that it is descending and holding on to it is a woman. From here we are reintroduced to Mary Poppins. She comes back to the Banks’ to help them in their hour of need and from there the adventure begins.
Mary Poppins Returns is all about recapturing the magic of your life before it is snuffed out by the cynicism of the world. Personifying this is the villainous William “Weatherall” Wilkin portrayed by Colin Firth. He hopes to take the home of the Banks’ to keep up with the consistent levels of wealth he has amassed.
Firth is charming and though there are glimpses of genuine evil he doesn’t get nearly enough screen time to capitalise on it. As well as Firth’s poorly placed villain there is also a woefully unimpressive character by the name of Topsy. She is portrayed by Meryl Streep and to say she is an unnecessary element in the film is an understatement. She brings nothing to the film except for a ropey accent that will make you cringe every time she opens her mouth.
Her character and the scenario surrounding her also highlights one of the serious issues with Mary Poppins Returns. It feels like a major retread of the original film. I’m not sure if Walt Disney were hoping that it’s been so long since the original that no one would notice it but there are so many thematic similarities in Mary Poppins Returns that you will have a major sense of De Ja Vu.
From the animated adventure the children, Jack and Mary Poppins go on in a china bowl to a set piece within the poorly lit streets of London involving the chimney sweeps there is a lot that will seem familiar to fans of the original. To some, it may seem like a nod to the classic I see it as a lazy rehash of something that was already perfect.
The characters of Mary Poppins Returns are a mix of yays and nays as well. The children are an absolute treat in particular young Georgie who goes with the flow when Mary Poppins arrives. He already lives on the fringes of Mary Poppins world and so for him joining in on the madness is easy. The other two Banks children are a little more tempered due to the fact that they’ve had to take on a lot of responsibility since the death of their mother so getting through to them is tougher for Mary Poppins but she is clearly up to the challenge. So the rapport between Blunt and the children is charming.
Lin Manuel can be a hit or miss depending on the scene. Much like Dick Van Dyke back in the original, he has a take on the British accent and it can be grating at times.
There is someone in this film playing his heart out though and I hope audiences notice him. Ben Wishaw as Michael Banks is heartbreaking. He is an understanding and loving father but he’s lost the magic that was once in his life. He has one touching and quiet song that brought me to tears. It stands out as my favourite moment in the whole film and it may be because it felt truly genuine.
The rest of the songs may be bigger and bolder but save for one or two of them they’re not nearly as memorable. Even now I’m trying to recall any of the lyrics of the other songs and I can’t. Michael’s song, on the other hand, stands heads and shoulders above the rest.
When I came away from Mary Poppins Returns I was happy. I had enjoyed the adventure but as I took each step further and further from the cinema and took stock of the experience I realised it’s much like cotton candy. You’ll enjoy it in the moment but it won’t satisfy you in the long run.