Mary Poppins Returns To A Grateful Audience 54 Years Later


Katie Pierce, Editor-in-Chief

The original I watched from my couch, on the floor in my family room, with my teddy bear, on our black boxy television.  The sequel, released 54 years later, I watched in a movie theater, third row, on a big screen. The magic of Mary Poppins, however, was the same.

Disney turned cartwheels to advertise Mary Poppins Returns, taking to social media, talk shows, commercials, even Spotify ads.  The star studded cast, featuring names like Emily Blunt (Into The Woods), Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), and Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), seemed almost too good to be true.  I, along with other skeptical fans, was almost holding my breath in anticipation of this film, which could either do extraordinarily well, or flop. The overture gave my answer.

In interviews, director Rob Marshall stressed how important it was to pay tribute Mary Poppins in many aspects of the new film.  This was immediately visible from the beginning: the style of the opening was strikingly similar to the opening titles of the 1964 original, using a similar color scheme, and identical font.  The overture, composed by Marc Shaiman (Hairspray), swelled with nostalgia, nevertheless additionally featuring new original songs.

The story follows a grown Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), living in the same house that he grew up in, struggling as the Great Depression hits Britain.  After a missed loan payment, Banks has five days to repay his debts or else risk losing the house to the bank. Mary Poppins makes a triumphant return, bringing imagination back into the house and the minds of the new generation of Banks children, still coping with the loss of their mother.

The adventures are still there, the music is lively and poignant, the characters lovable, and the lessons simple.  

I was more than thrilled to experience the whirlwind of adventures, from a bath turned into an underwater adventure to a carriage ride inside a china bowl.  The switch from live action to animation was almost seamless, with hints of the original movie in the colors, the dancing, even the penguins (yes, there are penguins).

I was slightly disappointed that Disney had to include a villain, which in this case was the chairman of the bank William “Weatherall” Wilkins (Colin Firth).  The added pressure of fighting evil changed the course of the entire plot, and I almost find it to stray away from the unique victory that the original 1964 film was able to achieve by creating a movie without conflict and still entertain and become one of the most classic Disney films of all time.  

This point plays to a theme in modern day films–without conflict or some kind of negative force, this sequel may have been labeled “fluffy” or even boring.  

As discussed by many critics, Emily Blunt’s performance as Mary Poppins was captivating and classic, yet Blunt has the innate ability to make the role her own through her singing and her steadfastly calm demeanor throughout the film.  She certainly does not try to be the Mary Poppins that Julie Andrews originated, yet she brings her back to life as if she never left.

Lin Manuel Miranda makes his major film debut as Jack, a lamplighter who apprenticed under Bert (Dick Van Dyke) from the 1964 film.  The casting choice was not only perfect, but also resulted in an exceptional singing and dancing from the Broadway star and master composer.

I have heard complaints about length from other critics and moviegoers that the movie felt extremely long, but I felt that the movie itself kept moving, resulting in a feeling that you are part of the story.  I felt that the movie pulled me out of the troubled world, and back to a place that only my childhood self knew and recognized as a reality, if only for a few hours.

It’s hard to directly articulate the nostalgia of Mary Poppins; the penguins, the magic, the dancing, the heartfelt songs and nonsense rhymes, even the street name or the cathedral.  It’s something that I never expected to see come alive again ever, really. Somehow, it did. Kudos to Disney for doing a satisfactory job bringing this world back to life.

If you’re ready for a break, or a change from the ordinary, take a few hours to enjoy Disney’s latest classic.  It might even leave you seeing things differently when you come out–can you imagine that?