BEIRUT: With misty fogs and darkness shrouding over our world, no studio other than the House of Mouse could have tripped a little light fantastic to help us find our way back towards hope and home.
Just in time for the holidays, the whimsical no-nonsense nanny gets caught on a kite and lands on our silver screens in the long-awaited sequel: MARY POPPINS RETURNS.
Set in Depression-era London, when the books were originally written, Michael Banks, now a grown man with a family of his own has taken a temporary job with Fidelity Fiduciary Bank in London, the same financial institution that employed his father and grandfather before him.
He lives with his three children, Annabel, John and Georgie at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, but the city is in the midst of “The Great Slump” so money is tight and the accompanying stress is unavoidable.
On top of that, the family is struggling to cope with the recent death of Michael’s wife, the house is rundown and in a constant state of chaos, and though Michael’s sister Jane helps out when she can, she inherited her mother’s enthusiasm for good causes and campaigns for workers’ rights, which keeps her busy.
With the harsh reality of the times and the burden of their loss weighing heavily on the family, the children find themselves taking on adult responsibilities, growing up much too fast.
As a result, childlike joy and wonder have slowly been chipped away.
Director Rob Marshall helms the sequel and does so with the amount of passion that he placed in the previous musical films he has directed.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS has the essence of classical musical filmmaking but at the same time merges it with a contemporary feel by adding magic in every frame, scene and musical number.
By taking on the tone of the classic and unforgettable prequel, Marshall re-energizes the world of Mary Poppins and the Banks children with today’s technology – and this is why the film works so well and grants its audience an enchanting experience.
It brings in the newer generations that did not grow up watching Mary Poppins as well as the generation that did and takes them on a brand new impossibly possible adventure.
A sequel that is practically perfect in every way – can you imagine that?
Thematically, the film tackles loss, hope and how as we become adults, we become disillusioned and cynical and forget how to look at life through a child’s eyes.
This is clearly a sensitive time for the world, and having a film like MARY POPPINS RETURNS in theaters now, speaks to the serious need of having something that can lift us up out of our day-to-day existence and remind us that magic still exists.
There was never any doubt that whoever Disney was to cast in the titular role and take on the mantel was more than likely going to come under scrutiny in being compared to the OG Mary Poppins, the legendary Julie Andrews.
Yet, surprised as you may be, Emily Blunt is not only worthy of the iconic role, but she also makes Poppins her own.
She is stylish, a little vain, but fun as well – closer to the nanny from the books, yet somehow an organic evolution from Andrews’ performance.
Blunt’s warmth is inviting, and her smile infectious – she is a star there is no doubt about it.
Ben Wishaw plays the grown up Michael who is not only struggling with trying to keep his family afloat, but also with accepting the loss of his wife.
Wishaw brings a beautiful vulnerability and sternness to the role.
Emily Mortimer plays the grown up Jane who is just as driven as her activist mother yet just as open to adventure, as she was when she was a child.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS features new characters as well, starting with the charming and upbeat lamplighter Jack, played by the great Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Miranda fits perfectly into the magical world of Disney and his pure, and spirited performance is further proof of the amount of talent that is within him.
Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson play the new generation of Banks children.
Their performances are filled with child-like wonder, which helps pull the child inside every audience member out from hiding to enjoy the adventure without asking too many questions.
It’s quite difficult not to fall in love with watching these three on-screen and be fully attached to them by the end of the film.
The rest of the cast, including the two surprise cameos, is all fun and energetic.
Grammy and Tony Award winner Marc Shaiman and Tony winner and three-time Emmy nominee Scott Wittman drew inspiration from the original songwriters to craft the beautiful new score and nine original songs.
The new songs are not only tuneful with brilliant wordplay and profound lyrics, they’re also eccentric, fun, and moving that allow you to feel like you are in the classical world of Mary Poppins, yet there is something new and fresh about it.
You’ll leave the movie theater humming, and even dancing to the tunes that are difficult to forget once you’ve heard them – a testament to how like the original magical film the sequel is.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS embraces the classic nature and beauty of the original film and continues its legacy, while re-imagining it in a completely new way with an original story and original score.
Moreover, the film is fun, magical and full of optimism, hope and child-like wonder, but it’s not just for children.
In the words of Walt Disney himself, it is “for the child in all of us.”
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