Practically Perfect in Every Way?: 'Mary Poppins Returns' is a Shot of Whimsy for Cynical Times
Modern Disney films almost seem to be embarrassed to be Disney films. From Enchanted to Frozen, to the new Beauty and the Beast, they all spend so much time winking at the audience and pointing out the ridiculousness of their own plots simply to prove that they're much too hip for fairy tales. This is disappointing because it runs contrary to Walt Disney's original goal to appeal to the child in us all. I'm happy to report that Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel to the 1964 original, does no such thing. The film is so honest with its premise that I think this is a film that old Walt would be proud to associate with his name.
Set 25 years after the original, an adult Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is now a widower raising his three children on his own. When he falls upon financial trouble, he and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) seek to save their old family home. Unexpectedly, the eponymous magical nanny (Emily Blunt) arrives to help take care of the children and remind the grown Banks kids about their sense of wonder that they almost forgot about.
While not nearly as good as the original (what on earth could be?), this film has enough fun and adventure to hold the attention of audiences of any age. Also, as a musical, the songs are memorable and wonderfully performed ("Trip a Little Light Fantastic" is a personal favorite). Most of all, the real joy of this film is the pure, uncynical fun that it can bring to some sadly cynical times. In such a divisive, uncertain moment in history, sometimes a little harmless entertainment is all we need. — Forest Taylor
Directed by: Rob Marshall // Written by: David Magee, based upon the stories by P. L. Travers // Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walter, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, David Warner, Angela Lansbury and Dick Van Dyke // 131 minutes // Rated PG