Mary Poppins Returns *****
December 24, 2018
Remember at the end of Mary Poppins, when Bert the Chimneysweep gazes into the windy London sky and says, “Goodbye, Mary Poppins! Don’t stay away too long!”
For 9-year-old me, that line started the clock ticking for what I considered the inevitable sequel to Walt Disney’s instant 1964 classic. That wait proved to be longer than I expected, but happily, Mary Poppins Returns is well worth the wait; every bit as good as the original and in some ways better.
As Ms. Poppins, Emily Blunt lacks Julie Andrews’ soaring voice, but she makes up for it in embodying the smoky mystery that surrounds the magical nanny. With her chin tucked down, her eyes peering out mischievously from under her wide-brimmed hat, Blunt’s Poppins is a lilting invitation to embrace the unexpected.
We’re told early on that her old pal Bert — played by Dick Van Dyke lo those many years ago — is off on a world tour. But we thoroughly enjoy the company of his great-nephew, a lamplighter named Jack (played with back-row-reaching enthusiasm by Hamilton creator/star Lin-Manuel Miranda).
The film closely follows the template of the original, with a fantastical leap into a bubble bath sea and a visit to a comically quirky relative (Meryl Streep, singing her little heart out). Master musical director Rob Marshall (Chicago) lends this film a masterful continuity that the original Poppins lacked, but he never loses sight of the film’s essential mission: To entertain all ages while splashing happily in the puddles of childhood fantasy