Mary Poppins Returns Movie Review
Mary Poppins Returns is exactly what you’d expect and want from a sequel 54 years in the making, a fun, energetic, and music-filled jaunt that largely lives up to its revered predecessor—but is also, basically, a safe retread that more than anything will make you want to revisit the original.
Emily Blunt takes over as the title character, a magical woman full of wisdom and wit who, when you think about it, is also pretty conceited and lazy. But never mind that. She returns to help Michael, all grown up and looking like Ben Whishaw, who has three kids, no wife, and poor financial management skills that has put his family’s wellbeing at risk.
He’s sort of a loser when you think about it, so good job raising him all those years ago, Mary Poppins!
From the first moment to the last, Mary Poppins Returns captures the magic of the original—which was clearly the main hurdle that Disney and director Rob Marshall needed to overcome. The movie feels like a true sequel, a continuation that is faithful to the original and yet doesn’t at all feel dated (not that the original, made in 1964, feels all that dated). It’s quirky, heartfelt, and always entertaining, a spoonful of sugar for the whole family.
For those who were frustrated that The Force Awakens was just a rehash of the original Star Wars, be warned: Disney has once again played things safe, essentially recreating the plot of the original without calling it a remake. While the details may differ, the movie is once again about a stressed-out dad who has forgotten what it’s like to be a kid, with many sequences slight alterations to what you grew up watching: there is the animated sequence full of talking animals, a song involving not chimney sweeps but lamplighters on bikes, and a climactic sequence about balloons, not kites. Lin-Manuel Miranda essentially impersonates Dick Van Dyke (but is still really good), and in the end Mary Poppins flies off into the sunset, presumably to return in less than 50 years this time to do the same thing all over again.
All of this makes Mary Poppins Returns hard to review. In the moment, you feel a great sense of nostalgia and excitement as this new film plays on the big screen, more than adequately harkening back to one of the best films of all time. And yet, as you walk out of the theater, you question whether Disney accomplished anything other than establish another money-making franchise? Disney has given us a solid sequel, but is there any reason not to just go home and watch the original over and over again?
Or does that not matter?
As the years pass, it’s probably safe to say that even if Mary Poppins Returns isn’t groundbreaking in any way or form, it will win over the imagination of children just like the original has for decades. The music may not be quite as good—it’s good, but I’d be hard pressed to recall a single number—but I imagine perceptions of details like that may change as well in time, too.
And truly, what does a Mary Poppins sequel look like if not safe and somewhat of a rehash of what has come before?
In the end, Mary Poppins Returns is a pleasing sequel that strikes all the right chords and delivers more than a few doses of full-on nostalgia. As long as you don’t expect anything more than that, that is more than enough.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.