Did we need another Mary Poppins film? Probably not. But there is still something magical about Mary Poppins that makes a sequel worth watching. Mary Poppins Returns picks up a generation later, introducing a new generation to the magic. Maybe we do need a little Mary Poppins in our life. It is a lot more wholesome than a lot of the other garbage coming out of Hollywood. But there was room for improvement.
When Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw) and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) were children, their family was visited by a magical nanny named Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt). Now that they are grown, the family has fallen on hard times. Michael's wife passed away last year leaving him to raise his three children alone. Michael has taken out a second mortgage to help ends meet leading to a pending foreclosure. His children, Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) are sent on an errand. When Georgie sees a kite, he runs through the park to retrieve it. As he reels his kite in, he finds it was caught in a nanny. Mary Poppins. The children return home with their nanny, who brings the right combination of magic, imagination and balance back into the Banks house. She also helps the family as they save their house from a corrupt banker.
Disney wasn't playing around with their reboot of the Mary Poppins franchise. They brought in David Magee to create the screenplay. Magee hasn't written many screenplays. Three to be exact. But two of the three have been nominated for Oscars (Life of Pi and Finding Neverland). He was teamed with Director Rob Marshall who was Oscar nominated for his film Chicago in 2002. While that appears a recipe for success, I thought the story was a bit formulaic. The film maintained a strong connection to its roots and appeared to place a lot of emphasis on creating a strong bond with the original film. It succeeds in that sense. Yet I felt the story was predictable and a bit forced at times. With that in mind, there is just something about Mary Poppins that makes you see past those flaws. I was hoping for more yet didn't feel let down.
The cast for Mary Poppins Returns is stocked with plenty of Oscar winners, although not in the lead roles. Meryl Streep (who has three) makes a cameo, as does Angela Lansbury, who has been nominated three times, but never won. Dick Van Dyke also has a cameo, although I was surprised to see he has never won an Oscar. The only major character to have won is Colin Firth, who plays the antagonist in this film. While Emily Blunt is not an Oscar winner, she was perfectly cast in the lead role. She contained the magic needed to make this film work. I really liked that choice. She owned the role. While the film could have been better, I wouldn't rule her out for an Oscar nomination this time around. I didn't care for Ben Wishaw as Michael. It was the one role that nagged at me a bit. But overall, the film had a stellar cast stocked with talent.
As one would expect, Mary Poppins Returns received a family-friendly PG rating from the MPAA. The film is geared towards children and their were plenty at the showing we attended. One little boy sitting nearby seemed mesmerized by the film. There is not much to worry about with this film. There is some animated action that is intense, but carefully rendered. One of the themes deals with the loss of the children's mother, but it is handled with a soft touch. But it might be tough on a child who has experienced that recently. Aside from that, I can't think of a reason not to let anyone and everyone see this film. The film is a bit long at two hours, ten minutes.
Mary Poppins Returns is wholesome family fun. The writers had the option of updating the film with a new family and plot in mind, but chose to create a strong connection to the original film. The story follows the Banks family a generation later, which seems a good choice for giving the material a fresh look while remaining true to its identity. The plot was a bit flat and predictable, but I still enjoyed the ride. The characters were good, but I think the role of Michael could have been cast better. Overall, this film did not disappoint. It could have been better, but I found I enjoyed it more than I probably should have. Maybe there is a nostalgia affect at work. 7.5/10.
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