To imagine Mary Poppins as anyone else besides Julie Andrews in the 1964 Disney classic will be a stretch for multiple generations. Making it hard to remember that she was a beloved literary character from the P.L. Travers book series before she was brought to the big screen and eventually to the Broadway stage. The battle to get the strong-willed nanny to the screen was depicted in the Tom Hanks / Emma Thompson film Saving Mr. Banks in 2013. To look back over 80 years since her introduction to the world, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) is being reintroduced by flying back into the lives of the Banks family and into audiences imaginations again.
Over two decades since she blew out of the lives of Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer), living in the family home has gone from a place of joy to a one of sorrow. During the financially challenging times of the 1930s, Micheal has recently lost his wife to illness and is left to raise his three children with the limited assistance of his sister and their housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters). While dealing with the difficulties of home ownership and raising a young family, lawyers from the bank show up at the door to give notice on the family’s potential eviction because of Micheal defaulting on his home loan.
While the Banks children consider what they can do to help their father as he tries to find a means of saving their home, Mary Poppins floats into their lives. The mysterious, but familiar nanny reintroduces herself to the family and ones to help them in their most significant time of need. With the help of the local street lamplighter named Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), the children travel on fantastic adventures that mirror or complement the real-life journey of their father and his sister. The family strives to find a stock certificate that could be the answer to their financial difficulties and it becomes a race against the clock to save their home and family.
For those fans of the original film and the classic children’s stories, director Rob Marshall (Into the Woods) has done his best to provide a fresh perspective on this familiar tale while allowing enough of the nostalgic to bring audiences along on this new adventure at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London. By including elements of the original story make this an honourable nod to the past, but David Magee’s screenplay delivers the newer twists to the Banks’ story to offer a potentially classic film to this generation.
To anyone who was concerned about the quality of performances by Blunt and Miranda in comparison to Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, there is no need to fret. Both leads manage to make this project their own and deliver magical performances that will please the die-hard fan and may win over anyone who is less enchanted by musicals. Their acting, singing and dancing are just the right combinations to carry the film, but then to be surrounded by fantastic talent who manage to rival their characters. Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Meryl Streep, and Colin Firth are great additions to the cast, with a special acknowledgement to Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson as the Banks children round out the cast beautifully.
To all of the families who can sing the lyrics to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to those who are just being introduced to Mary Poppins, this is one of the best options for the Christmas season. There is very little to complain about with this film, except for the length which may make this a difficult choice for young children. Otherwise, Mary Poppins Returns is the film for everyone who is looking for an inspirational experience that is practically perfect in every way.
What should I know as a parent before going to Mary Poppins Returns?
To all parents, it would be a travesty for you to miss out on this captivating adventure with your children. Beyond the music, comedic aspects and charming characters, this is a tale that shows the real value of family, community and faith. In our society where we tend to be more lost in our social media and video games, Mary Poppins Returns reinvigorates the message of the second commandment of Jesus.
You shall love your neighbour as yourself. – Matthew 22:39
and the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
This holiday season this is a beautiful choice for families to enjoy a film together and then to consider how the message of the film applies to them and the people around them.