Mary Poppins Returns

Disney family musical with Emily Blunt as the titular magical nanny. Follows the events of the 1964 original. Directed by Oscar-nominee Rob Marshall (Chicago). Co-stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Meryl Streep and Colin Firth.

1930s depression-era London (the time period of the original novels). Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now grown up, with Michael, his three children and their housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters), living on Cherry Tree Lane. After Michael suffers a personal loss, Mary Poppins re-enters the lives of the Banks family, and, along with the optimistic street lamplighter Jack (Miranda), uses her unique magical skills to help the family rediscover the joy missing in their lives.

Disclaimer: I am a big Mary Poppins fan having read the books, watched the first movie many times, seen the stage show AND bought the ace parrot umbrella merch… So it was in a state of happy expectation that I attended  Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns with my musical loving teenage emo (I don’t know how that works either), and my Mum and Dad. I was not disappointed. If you strongly dislike slick Broadway choreography, fantastically designed sets and costumes, precision casting and magical old-fashioned toe-tapping song and dance, this is really not the film for you.

As the title suggests, we pick up later in the lives of the Banks children, stylish independent gal Jane (Emily Mortimer) and her brother, gentle artist Michael (Ben Whishaw), all grown up in 1930s Depression-era London with Michael and kids still living in the beloved family home at Cherry Tree Lane. Michael, struggling in his banking job, and his three resourceful children Annabel, John and Georgie, are having a tricky time managing both a personal loss and a downward spiral in finances. Still dressed beautifully with colour-coordinated panache (courtesy of award winning Costume Designer Sandy Powell), and somehow retaining the services of the most popular vaguely bananas Housekeeper in town, Ellen (Julie Walters, see: Paddington), the family is fast losing their joy.

Enter practically-perfect Emily Blunt, who just wows as Mary Poppins, descending with her special blend of magic and vainglorious help, making us all feel like big silly kids. Lin-Manuel Miranda (Grammy-winning Broadway star, songwriter and musician) plays Jack, a lamplighter, providing a kind and trusty escort for adventures of all types. The effort to weave a more modern cultural sensitivity and class amalgamation into such an old fashioned English story does not go unnoticed, although it negotiates an increasingly fine line.

Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) is definitely the go-to guy for pulling together a star studded musical escapade, with delightful cameos from original Poppins cast member, the twinkly, spritely Dick Van Dyke, and veterans Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, and Angela Lansbury. My Mum and I were rapt, my teenager gushing...my Dad fell asleep.

Empire (UK)

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Against all the odds, this is a very worthy follow-up to the original movie. Blunt is pitch-perfect, as ever, in a film that all but insists you leave with a smile slapped on your face.

Hollywood Reporter

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Its old-fashioned, honest sentimentality plasters a smile across your face and plants a tear in your eye, often simultaneously.

Los Angeles Times

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It sits there flailing on the screen, bright, gaudy and mirthless, tossing off strained bits of comic business and all but strangling itself with its own good cheer.

The Guardian

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I admire it for its craftsmanship and technique, like a machine for creating nostalgia.

Total Film (UK)

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A sweet, evocative throwback that delivers all the feels - in the most delightful way.

Vanity Fair

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What lingers of Mary Poppins Returns is Blunt's winningly efficient performance.

Variety (USA)

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Emily Blunt is practically perfect in every way in a 'Mary Poppins' sequel that uncannily recreates the original's wholesome studio-system vibe.

NZ Herald (Francesca Rudkin)

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Though the setting and the characters may be a nod to the spirit of the original film; with a new cast, set of songs and adventures, Mary Poppins Returns feels fresh and works as a standalone film. It sure put a smile on my face.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

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As enjoyable an entertainment as this is, it will only leave you yearning to see that classic Simpsons' parody Shary Bobbins for a little light relief.