Lead by a stellar performance from Emily Blunt, this warm hearted, optimistic, energetic sequel to Mary Poppins is very pleasant company even if it falls short of being truly great.
A sequel to the classic 1964 film Mary Poppins, this film follows the children from the original all grown up with kids of their own. The family house is in trouble of being taken by a bank. Mary Poppins sweeps in on a kite and brings magic to the lives of all involved.
This film lives under a tremendous shadow. It is an insurmountable task to surpass or break free from the original film. This film does a really good job of standing on its own while paying tribute to the original. That shadow extends to every element of the film, from the story, to the songs, to the performances. The performances are the area that succeeds the most at standing on their own.
Emily Blunt shines. She is full of magic without any special effects. She has a special look in her eye that intrigues, entices, and lets the audience know something special is about to happen. She matches Julie Andrews original brilliantly while bringing her own flourishes. She was given the impossible task of being exactly the same as Julie Andrews, while making it her own,, while matching the tone of the new movie, while feeling timeless, while also lining up with the character as written in the books. Somehow she walks that tightrope and even does a few flips while on that tightrope.
Ben Whishaw plays the father Michael Banks. He is heartbreaking on multiple occasions. He has a song that he sings to his deceased wife that brings tears. There is a scene where he is angry with the children and the anger gives way to his true feelings of grief and the camera lingers and lets him unfold the layers of emotions naturally. It is wonderful to see.
The kids are adorable and capture the heart instantly. Their every line is delivered with enthusiasm and joy and honesty. Lin Manuel Miranda is wonderful. He is just a bundle of enthusiasm. He is a joy to watch.
There has been a lot said about the songs and how they don’t live up to the originals. That is difficult to say. They are memorable and enjoyable. They aren’t as iconic as Feed the Birds, Let’s Go Fly a Kite, or Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. They are good songs, but they do not match the legendary status of the originals.
The big problem with the film is the story and the message. The message gets muddled here. There are too many characters and too many excursions with Mary Poppins. We never really settle down and focus on one theme. The movie is about grief and the grieving process. But it’s also about allowing children to be children. But it’s also about believing in magic. The three never really come together. It could be said it’s all about the grief of losing Michaels wife and the children’s mother. However that’s a stretch, and it’s not a stretch that the movie tries to make or clarify. We never spend enough time with any one or any group of characters to get a clear vision of the story. There are two long sequences that contribute nothing to theme or story. Meryl Streep shows up in a prolonged musical number that never comes back or makes a contribution to the story. There is a big long animated chase sequence that kind of contributes plot wise, but not really. It’s just a source of tonal dissonance and distraction that doesn’t need to be in the movie.
In the end though the film is a big bundle of good feelings. The final number lifts the spirits. The movie as a whole is a joyful ride to take. It is an enjoyable movie that is worth seeing. For that overwhelming positive feeling, it’s going to get an A-. It’s definitely my cup of tea.