sat 20/07/2019

Mary Poppins Returns review - Emily Blunt makes the role her own | reviews, news & interviews

Mary Poppins Returns review - Emily Blunt makes the role her own

Mary Poppins Returns review - Emily Blunt makes the role her own

Disney nanny magics up a new adventure

Emily Blunt has a touch less sugar, and a smidgen more spice as the nanny with magic powers

It's perhaps unfair to review a film through the prism of one that predates it by more than half a century, but even fans of Mary Poppins Returns (and I am one of them) can't help doing so. Mary Poppins (1964) has become such an established part of childhood film-viewing – whatever your age – that comparisons and reference to Disney's Julie Andrews vehicle seep into one's consciousness without bidding.

But let me try to talk about Mary Poppins Returns (directed and produced by Rob Marshall) in its own right. The action takes place in Depression-era London, when the original books by PL Travers were set. The Banks children, Michael and Jane, are now grown; Michael, recently widowed and with three children of his own, is living in the old family home at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. The peril here is that, as an impoverished artist, Michael has not repaid a loan to the bank and they serve a repossession notice on the house.

The film's story begins after a song-and-dance routine from Lin-Manuel Miranda's lamplighter Jack (pictured below), with a Cockerney accent a world away from the one sported by his uncle Bert (Dick Van Dyke's chimneysweep) – see, I'm already falling into the trap – but one that Londoners would still hear as comically inauthentic.

Georgie, Michael's youngest, chases a battered old kite (the one that his dad and aunt used to play with). He pulls on the string and, aided by Jack, they reel in Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt). The boy excitedly tells his family: “I was flying a kite and it got caught on a nanny!” And so the fun begins as Mary Poppins returns to rescue not just the family home, but the family from its grief of losing a mother. This element of loss is subtly woven thought the story and handled touchingly, never moving into mawkishness despite this being a Disney film.

What follows is a lot of jollity – including a fabulous underwater fantasy sequence as Mary Poppins bathes the children – pantomime villains (including Colin Firth as the malevolent banker trying to take the family home) and real suspense involving Big Ben and the clock running down to midnight, when the house will be forfeited. There's even a hint of romance between Jack and Jane (Emily Mortimer, sadly not given a lot to do).

There are a few mis-steps; Julie Walters reprises her housekeeper from the Paddington films, Whishaw's Michael is rather one-note as the crushed widower, and the long sequence involving Meryl Streep as Mary Poppins' cousin Topsy doesn't move the story along.

The children (Joel Dawson, Pixie Davies and Nathanael Saleh, pictured above with Blunt) are lovely and great actors, and the musical set pieces are terrifically well done, even if Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's songs don't feel as memorable as the hits-stuffed 1964 version, although time will tell. Sandy Powell's costume design is a continual delight and the cameos by Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury are sweet.

Blunt makes the role of the magical nanny her own (although the accent is little too posh), and her Mary Poppins has a welcome touch less sugar and a smidgen more spice. There's a lovely moment when, having launched the children from an ordinary bath into their underwater adventure, she gives a knowing smile as she is about to join them. A delight.

There's a lot of jollity, including a fabulous underwater fantasy sequence

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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