4 Stars – Wholesome
To say that Mary Poppins Returns is just a sequel would be wholly inadequate. This is a return of a dear old friend who has been away for a long time but comes back home with the wisdom and love you remember so fondly. Maybe this version won’t leave you with song lyrics that you will remember for the rest of your life (i.e. – “su·per·ca·li·fra·gil·is·tic·ex·pi·a·li·do·cious”), but its music is endearing and at least one song will bring a tear to your eye.
The returning Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has more of the personality of the story’s writer, P.L. Travers, a woman who knew her mind and didn’t take kindly to Disney’s lighthearted approach to telling the story of her beloved, and somewhat tragic father. This Mary Poppins can be stern, but every once in a while she shows the mischievous smile which communicates that she knows more about what “good” is about to happen in someone’s life than they believe themselves.
It has been well over fifty years (1964) since the original Mary Poppins worked her way into our hearts and the film became a part of American film history. This story takes us back into the lives of the now-grown Banks children who have a faint memory of someone magical who came into their home as children. Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) Banks are now grown, and Michael, who still lives in the family home with his children, has been recently widowed. The struggles that the original Banks children witnessed in their parents, are now coming to be a common experience in their own daily lives.
It is at this point that one of the most common mistakes that we all make occurs for Michael and Jane Banks. The sense of wonder and awe that they knew as children has been replaced with a skeptical sense of adult reality. That childhood faith in the unknown seems oddly naive, and not grounded in what we have been taught to be the “real world.” It is that childhood trust in faith that Mary Poppins returns to bring back into the Banks family home. This is the true gift she is about to leave with them.
There are many things in this production that are endearing, not the least of which are the casting of characters with some remarkable cameo appearances, such as co-star Lin-Manuel Maranda (of Hamilton fame) who takes the place of the original lamplighter made famous by Dick Van Dyke. Then, surprise, Dick Van Dyke shows up as Mr. Dawes Jr., the old banker who owned the mortgage on the Banks home, for a remarkable dance scene at the end. For a 91-year-old actor, he still has the moves!
Adding to the grandeur of the movie is the attention to detail, including the opening credits and set paintings that take you back to a time of great Hollywood films. Throw in cameo appearances and songs with Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, and Angela Lansbury, and you have a truly entertaining experience that takes you back to the memories of the original Mary Poppins.
This is a story that teaches on so many levels speaking to adults and children alike. This may not be a religious film or a morality play, but it speaks with the same level of depth without over-dramatizing its conclusion. Here is a story that reminds us that everyone faces challenges, but it is a childlike faith in the power of love that lives outside of ourselves that can transform us through and through. All we need to do is let go, and believe.
When you think of the simple faith of a child do you recognize what is missing in your own life? Do you see the absence as a positive or a negative part of your life?
The interweaving of drama with fantasy is a hallmark of the Mary Poppins experience. How does this impact you? Could the story be told without such a blending?
The message of a transcending love is something our artists teach us in multiple forms. Do you experience this Love in your own life?