Mary Poppins Returns

American family film, 125 minutes, 2018
Everybody knows a few indisputable things in life. Let's see, for example: there is one inimitable Mary Poppins and she can be only played by Julie Andrews.
That's also what Disney thought when creating the classic film in 1964, the studio even postponed the production as the actress was about to have a baby. The result confirmed their belief: 'Mary Poppins' became a huge success and Julie Andrews won the Oscar in 1965.

So the question arises: do we need a sequel? The answer is yes, very much. P. L. Travers wrote many Mary Poppins stories, originally they were published in six volumes, so naturally the first Disney film couldn't use all the available material. Those who read the books should know that Disney's conception of Mary Poppins was rather different from the writer's, there's even a charming biographical drama about their differences ('Saving Mr. Banks'). The fairy-like Julie Andrews with her angelic voice hardly resembled the 'terre-à-terre', haughty and practical nanny who came to teach the children how to get by in life. What Disney failed to grasp for the first time is a simple fact: Mary Poppins is absolutely British. Her character has its roots in the complicated, often nonsense limericks and in the grotesque world of Lewis Carroll. She is conveying the British collective tradition which includes tea, sponge cakes, but also absurd poems, practicality and a dry sense of humour.

As an adaptation, we must say that 'Mary Poppins Returns' surpasses its predecessor in many ways, as it manages to grasp something of all that 'Britishness'. Emily Blunt is a terrific actress, we could admire her talent in biopics ('The Young Victoria'), action films ('Sicario') even a horror ('A Quiet Place'), and now she is the perfect, haughty and inscrutable Mary Poppins: a down-to-earth employee and a nonchalant witch in one person, just retaining enough sweetness to spice up the role a bit. The whole cast is very well picked: Ben Whishaw as a grief-stricken father trying to pull himself together, Emily Mortimer as a charming and helpful Aunt Jane who knows she's on her way to spinsterness, and the supporting actors are remarkable as well: singer-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda brings a puppyish charm into his lamplighter role, Colin Firth pulls off the villain confidently and Meryl Streep sweeps you off your feet (as always). The characters are real and relatable, which is more than one could say about the original 1964 movie. This film is more adult-friendly I should say, the situations have a real weight. Michael, the adorable little boy from 'Mary Poppins' is a young father now, and he can't manage the family's life since his wife's death, they will even loose their house soon. So the magical nanny comes from the sky once more and gives everybody the thing he or she needs the most: a little gaiety and fun for the kids, a boyfriend for Jane, and financial relief for Michael.

True enough, the songs are less catchy compared to the classics of the original film, and you are not likely to whistle them next day the way you did with 'Feed the Birds', 'Chim Chim Che-ree or 'A spoonful of Sugar. But they are witty and enjoyable: the lyrics are real gems, teaching useful things and providing lot of fun at the same time, see for example Mary's burlesque performance 'The Cover Is Not The Book. 'Mary Poppins Returns' is a magical and enjoyable movie experience for kids and adults alike, resembling rather the Nanny McPhee films than the 1964 original Disney adaptation. It is available on DVD and Blue-Ray since June in mediatheques, libraries and bookstores.

(4 pictures)

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