Paying homage to the original film seemed to be the order of the day for “Mary Poppins Returns,” but any original plot was traded for nostalgia.
The film is centered around now-adult Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), his sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer), and his three children. After the loss of his wife, Michael is struggling both financially and emotionally and has less than a week to repay a loan to the bank. If not, he loses his home.
Sensing stress and disarray, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) arrives to save the day, pulled in by a central prop in “Mary Poppins” — an old green kite. Mary Poppins’ whimsical antics ensue, aided by a brand new Cockney jack-of-all-trades, fittingly named Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda). Beyond this point, there is little plot left.
That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, however.
The new film delivered a healthy dose of magic and some incredible musical numbers just like the original, along with a hearty serving of nostalgia in the form of callbacks to “Mary Poppins.” Reused props (the parrot umbrella), sets (the Banks’ home) and cameo appearances (Dick Van Dyke) all set the scene and helped Mary Poppins come back to life, but didn’t allow it much room to grow.
To supplement the minimal main plot, there was also an awkward side plot hinting at, then confirming, a budding relationship between Jack and Jane. It didn’t seem to fit naturally into the flow of the movie and it’s only addressed a handful of times, so it really just felt like an afterthought to hit the love quota and add some romance to an otherwise couple-less film.
But the bare-boned side plots don’t end there.
Mary Poppins takes the children and Jack to visit her Cousin Topsy’s (Meryl Streep) repair shop. Topsy performs a spectacular music number, eventually agrees to perform a repair for the children, then is never heard from again.
Even in the confines of a reused story, several stars truly shined. Namely, Blunt.
Blunt pulled off Mary Poppins perfectly, and managed to capture Julie Andrews’ fast paced, nonchalant yet still prim and proper character to a T. No one could do it better. From her witty quips to her trademark flexed feet as she floats away, Blunt stunned. In my opinion, her performance is tied with Andrews' herself.
Alongside Blunt, Lin Manuel-Miranda also impressed. His reprised role was one he was well-suited for, though at times his accent was comically over-exaggerated. Despite this, he pulled off the character of Jack fairly believably, and shined in a few musical numbers. There likely could have been a better fit for the role, but Miranda’s celebrity status surely took precedence.
Overall, “Mary Poppins Returns” was a fun, magical movie built around a story that could be told in a paragraph. Little was reimagined and it could never compare to the original, but it accomplished the goal of entertaining the audience and bringing a nostalgic smile to everyone’s faces.