By Ben Bennett
After 54 years, movie audiences once again return to the Banks house in London, where the fictional world has only aged 20 years and the Banks children are all grown up. Michael Banks now works at a bank in London and his sister Jane, due to the passing of Michael’s wife, is helping Michael, raise Anabel, John, and Georgie, the new children of the Banks house.
Mary Poppins Returns is helmed by the academy award nominated director of Chicago, Rob Marshall. Marshall is also known for being a theatre director/choreographer and it is evident during the course of the movie. Playing the titular character of Mary Poppins is Emily Blunt. Alongside Blunt, Lin Manuel-Miranda essentially plays the “Bert” character, originally played by Dick Van Dyke; however, Miranda’s character is named Jack and instead of a chimney sweeper he works as a lamplighter ( ‘leeries’ as they call them in the movie ). Along for the adventures in the film are the three Banks children.
Beginning with my praise for the film, Emily Blunt shines in the role as Mary Poppins. Many wondered if Blunt could ever live up to the performance that Julie Andrews put on and, in short, she could. Blunt brings the same grace, sternness, and joy to the character as Andrews did in her time in the role. Although Blunt does not quite have the voice Andrews does her voice is still very very good and fits in with the character of Mary Poppins well. Lin Manuel-Miranda’s character of Jack is also played very well, as expected. Miranda’s dancing, singing, and rapping (for a little bit) are all showcased during the course of the movie. He also tries to create an accent similar to Van Dyke’s in the original film. The result is a ‘cockney’ accent that sounds a little over the top, a little like Van Dyke’s accent and a little cheesy.
Throughout the movie/musical, as you would expect, there are many songs and dance sequences. The direction and choreography in these scenes are pitch perfect and they show off director Rob Marshall’s experience in theater. From Meryl Streep doing backflips to a bunch of lamplighters pole dancing (not as weird as it sounds), the musical scenes are fantastic. Somehow Marshall manages to shoot the musical scenes as they are shot on a soundstage, just like a real musical. However, the movie’s actual plot is where it falls flat. The story of the Banks losing their house might at first seem like a good idea, but the plot ends up feeling like a delivery device for Marshall to bring you from musical sequence to the other.
Overall Mary Poppins Returns was an entertaining time at the movies. With a standout performance from Emily Blunt and some excellent musical numbers, the movie manages to save itself from its by the numbers, boring plot. Dick Van Dyke also returns to the franchise as Mr. Dawes Jr. (son of the character he played in the original movie) and shows that even at 93 he can still dance with the best of them.