Mary Poppins Returns... in surprisingly good fashion

by Russell Baillie / 04 January, 2019
RelatedArticlesModule - Mary Poppins Returns

The return of super-nanny Mary Poppins is almost as magical and entertaining as the original.

Reboot Mary Poppins? Isn’t that supercalifragilisticexpi-sacreligious? After all, the 1964 original Disney musical gave the sainted Julie Andrews some of her finest hours on screen. It won her an Oscar. It got her The Sound of Music. So, a 21st-century Poppins redo? Cor, blimey, guv’nor, whatever next? Getting Nazis to chase those von Trapp kids up some hills again?

Except, well, Mary Poppins Returns is everything a long-awaited and arguably unnecessary sequel to a decades-old song-and-dance classic could, or, should be. It rewards lasting affection for the original. It does stuff in its mix of live action and animation that still dazzles with its ye olde hand-drawn Disney-ness as the characters wander into imaginary worlds.

One of those is based on the landscape artwork on a piece of Royal Doulton china and includes a horse-and-carriage ride to a music-hall extravaganza. It’s quite the antiques roadshow.

As its brolly-powered domestic superheroine, the ridiculously adaptable Emily Blunt delivers a performance of prim poise and infectious glee that, thankfully, doesn’t feel like an Andrews impression.

There are terrific turns elsewhere, too, especially from Lin-Manuel Miranda as lamplighter Jack, this film’s answer to Dick Van Dyke’s accent-mangling Bert, and Ben Whishaw as the grown-up Michael Banks, now widowed with three children. He isn’t coping, despite the support of sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) and with his mortgage in arrears, the bank, headed by a villainous Colin Firth, has given them a foreclosure deadline.

With the story shifted from the Edwardian era to sometime during the Great Depression, the film essentially follows the story beats of the original. So the songs arrive just as frequently – if not as infectiously. Yes, a don’t-make-them-like-they-used-to factor applies to the musical numbers, which occasionally quote from the Sherman Brothers’ originals, but aren’t quite in the same earworm league, though a couple, such as the high-stepping Trip a Little Light Fantastic and the melancholy The Place Where Lost Things Go come close.

Meryl Streep turns up as Mary’s loopy Eastern European cousin, Topsy, but her big number, Turning Turtle, is unfortunately the lesser of her two recent single-song cameos after that Mamma Mia sequel.

It’s also one of a couple of moments when director Rob Marshall’s razzle-dazzle Broadway leanings detract slightly from the Disney storybook magic. Largely, though, his film is a delight. Its energy and rampant cheeriness are enough to leave you feeling dazed and giddy. Yes, Poppins II will put you in a nanny state.



Video: Walt Disney Studios

This article was first published in the January 5, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


Vincent O’Malley: Why we need to open up about past Māori and Pākehā conflict
106234 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z History

Vincent O’Malley: Why we need to open up about pas…

by Sally Blundell

Calls are growing for us to take a more honest look at our past, particularly the wars over land and power that shaped the country.

Read more
Scott Morrison: How a 'doomed' PM stormed the country with one killer line
106291 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z World

Scott Morrison: How a 'doomed' PM stormed the coun…

by Bernard Lagan

As Australia’s tourism tsar 13 years ago, Scott Morrison oversaw the rollicking “So where the bloody hell are you?’’ ad campaign.

Read more
What you need to know about knee replacements
105774 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z Health

What you need to know about knee replacements

by Ruth Nichol

Replacement knee joints are giving thousands of Kiwis decades of service, but don’t rush to get one.

Read more
How a hit romcom took indigenous Aussie star Miranda Tapsell back to her roots
106072 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Movies

How a hit romcom took indigenous Aussie star Miran…

by Russell Baillie

Miranda Tapsell tells Russell Baillie how she came up with Top End Wedding and why its Northern Territory setting means so much.

Read more
The link between cardiovascular health and dementia
105915 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Health

The link between cardiovascular health and dementi…

by Nicky Pellegrino

New research into the brain has found that cardiovascular ill health is linked to cognitive decline and dementia.

Read more
Following the call of New Zealand's abandoned freezing works
106317 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Following the call of New Zealand's abandoned free…

by John Summers

John Summers wonders if his abiding interest in New Zealand’s abandoned freezing works is actually a long farewell to his grandfather.

Read more
Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlooked moonshot
106359 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Tech

Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlo…

by Peter Griffin

“We bow down to this idea of Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos going to Mars, when here in our own country, we had the equivalent."

Read more
Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure
106331 2019-05-24 11:09:35Z Music

Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure

by Elizabeth Kerr

Contemporaries and students are paying tribute to composer John Rimmer and his musical legacy.

Read more