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Mary Poppins, the original movie, changed my young life. I first viewed it at age six and it captivated me. The storyline, characters and music enchanted and inspired. However, it was the way Mary Poppins lived her life that most caught my attention. She was magical and good things happened when she appeared. Here was someone, albeit fictional, who lived a life beyond the ordinary, with confidence and grace.
I wanted to be just like her.
Fifty-five years pass and I’m back in the theater, ready to be captivated all over again, with Mary Poppins Returns. I attended a matinee showing last weekend, accompanied by my sister, two of her granddaughters, my mom, and my great nephew.
Mary Poppins Returns Cast
This musical fantasy film stars Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury. Directed by Rob Marshall, the movie carries a PG rating and has a run time of 2 hours and 10 minutes.
Although Mary Poppins Returns is not among the Best Picture nominees, it is up for four Oscars, including Original Song “The Place Where Lost Things Go”, Original Score, Costume Design and Production Design.
The Banks Family
In this follow up to Mary Poppins, Michael (Whishaw) and Jane (Mortimer) Banks are grown. Jane, who is not married, carries on her mother’s work in assuring equal rights for women and labor workers.
Life proves more difficult for Michael. A recent widower with three young children, he packs up his art supplies and canvases, and gets a job as a clerk at the bank. Not only does he work at the same bank that his father once did, he lives in the grand old house he grew up in.
The children, twins Annabel (Davies) and John (Saleh) and little brother Georgie (Dawson), have matured beyond their years due to losing their mother and caring for their grieving and distracted father.
Life gets more challenging. Michael falls behind on a home equity loan he secured from the bank. He learns he has five days to pay off the loan in full, or the bank will foreclose on the property. If Michael can find the Certificate of Ownership for shares his father purchased from the bank, the house remains his. If not, he must be moved out by Friday at midnight.
Mary Poppins Returns
Into this desperate situation, Mary Poppins (Blunt) returns. Georgie snags her on his kite as she floats down from the sky. The nanny immediately meets Jack (Miranda), a London lamp lighter who is assisting Georgie with the wayward kite. Jack remembers Mary Poppins, from his childhood days apprenticing with Bert the chimney sweep.
Mary Poppins escorts the children home, much to the surprise of Michael and Jane who are searching the house for the certificate. The adult Banks siblings are both delighted and confused by their former nanny’s return. Over the years they’ve convinced themselves that their adventures with Mary Poppins never really happened.
With snappy wit, Mary Poppins informs them she’s there to take care of the Banks children…and the young kids too.
Adventures in London
In brisk fashion, Mary Poppins takes charge. And magic ensues. The young Banks children drop their guard and with relief, enter back into their lost childhood. Their new nanny introduces them to wonders, while restoring order in their lives. Her umbrella talks. Tasks become play. And an antique bowl holds more within it than the kids could ever have imagined.
In the city, Mary Poppins and Jack lead Annabel, John and Georgie through a series of adventures, including meeting Mary’s eccentric cousin, Topsy (Streep) and dancing with a chorus of lamp lighters.
Meanwhile, Michael and Jane meet with the bank president, William Weatherall Wilkins (Firth), hoping he has a copy of George Bank’s shares. Although he seems helpful and sympathetic, the wily Mr. Wilkins is not as he seems.
Time is running out for the Banks Family. Mary Poppins is there to assist Michael, Jane and the children, not to rescue them outright using magic. Her sage advice and timely enchantments open the way for all to turn out well…if Michael can only see and appreciate what is there before him in plain sight.
What I Loved About Mary Poppins Returns
I experienced such nostalgia during this film. The movie score contains snippets of melodies from the original Mary Poppins movie, which made me smile. Woven into the story are references to the first movie and for the watchful viewer there are memorable props scattered throughout the scenes.
For the those who have not seen Mary Poppins, this sequel does well as a stand alone movie. The three children with us had not seen the original movie and yet they all loved Mary Poppins Returns. Kaleb, who is seven years old whispered to me, about half way through the movie, “There’s a lot of singing!” It wasn’t a complaint…this kid loved The Greatest Showman…it was merely an observation. The music, the dance numbers, the hand drawn animation sequence combined with live action are all nods to the original, and a fine tribute they are.
Angela Lansbury appears in a cameo as the Balloon Lady. She was approached to play Mary Poppins in the 1964 film, before Julia Andrews took on the role, so this is a nice touch. Karen Dotice, who portrayed Jane as a child makes a brief appearance also.
My favorite cameo appears near the end of the film. Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert in the first film, portrays the retired bank president. This sprightly actor, who was 91 at the time of filming, performs a lively dance atop a desk. I teared up, and not just because he guest stars. His sweet face shines with joy. I checked to see if he actually did the choreography or was it computerized. He did indeed dance, and not the simplest choreography offered to him, but the most difficult. I am beyond impressed and deeply moved by his obvious enjoyment.
Hand Me an Umbrella
Mary Poppins Returns shines with the magic, the humor, the wisdom, the playfulness of the first film. Adults who have forgotten who they are and what’s important in life get second chances. The extraordinary shows up routinely. And lost things are never really gone. They dwell in our hearts forever. The overall feel of the movie is positive, in a you-create-your-life-with-your-thoughts kind of way. I loved it.
After seeing Mary Poppins, my six year old self grabbed an umbrella, climbed a tree, and hopped onto the roof of my house. Perched there on the edge, umbrella open, I intended to float to earth as Mary did. My guardian angel must have placed a warning hand on my shoulder, because a sudden wave of caution swept through me. I didn’t jump which is good because I would not have floated.
Or perhaps I would have. Nonetheless, the magic and wisdom of Mary Poppins stayed with me and has colored my life brilliantly. I hope she will return again to the big screen, for more adventures.
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