A review of Mary Poppins Returns by Ahmed Zayani
The prospect of ‘sequelizing’ a popular film is always a tall order. In the majority of cases, the original film would be one that has a dedicated fan base who holds it in high regards, so much so that the aspirations and expectations out of a sequel tend to be high, sometimes unobtainable, for most. This is especially true for sequels and follow-ups that come late in the game for major classics. Ones that are not only beloved by many but in some instances have become so engrained with audiences that they hold a certain cultural significance. While there are always duds such as Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, Dumb & Dumber Too, and Independence Day: Resurgence, the contrary can be true as well with films like Tron: Legacy, Psycho 2, and Rocky Balboa proving to be well worth the wait. Whatever the case may be, us film fanatics have come to expect sequels to be a certainty akin to death and taxes in today’s cinema landscape and the best we can do is hope for the best.
Coming out fifty four years after the original classic, Mary Poppins Returns is directed by Rob Marshall and tells the story of the titular whimsical nanny who returns to the house on Cherry Tree Lane to aid the Banks household during their time of need. To say that the original Mary Poppins film is beloved would be a gross understatement. For most people of my generation and even those of my parents’, Mary Poppins was a quintessential childhood favourite. Walt Disney himself held the film in special regards, having been fascinated by the story ever since he first read it to his daughters during their childhood. It is easily one of the most celebrated films in The House of Mouse’s library and one that the studio has gone seemingly out of their way to preserve its legacy. So it came to the surprise to many when a sequel was green-lit over five decades later. This wasn’t the first time that the studio had tried to sequalize Mary Poppins but with issues with the Travers estate those dreams were quickly squashed away.
The long wait helped create gargantuan expectations for many fans, myself included, and I am happy to report that Mary Poppins Returns has not only met those expectations, it exceeded them. I will get a lot of flak for this but I will go on record and say that this sequel is actually better than the original. That is a tough pill to swallow but this film has a lot going for it; Emily Blunt is an absolute marvel in the titular role and gave my favourite female performance of 2018. Hers is a different Mary Poppins than the one played by Julie Andrews and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of trying to replicate when Andrews did years back, Blunt made the character into her own, with her attitude and sass shining through, all the while maintaining the nanny’s delightful spirit intact. The rest of the cast faired equally as well with Lin-Manuel Miranda being the other stand out. Despite this being his first major motion picture, Miranda carried himself like a true professional, with him bringing the same theatrical sensibility and charm that made him a star with Hamilton. The man was such a delight to watch that I do hope that this leads him to bigger and better roles as well as a few award nods on the way. The other highlight of the film to me were the musical numbers which I can see being every bit as iconic as those from the original (right now I have “a cover is not a book” playing on an endless loop)
Do I have any qualms? Well, if I have to nitpick Ben Whishaw who kind of looks too young for the role but he makes up for it by giving one hell of a performance. The point is; being a huge Disney fan, I always wonder what Walt would think of the output of his empire had he been with us today. While I am sure that amongst his parks, films, and brands there will be a multitude of things that will result in his ire, Mary Poppins Returns is certainly not one of them. Quite simply this is one of the best Disney films in quite some time and one of my favourites of 2018. If you haven’t yet, I implore you to go out and watch it.
For more cinematic intel, follow Ahmed on: @theahmedzayani
The Five: Favourite late sequels
- Rambo (20 years after Rambo 3)
- The Odd Couple II (30 years after The Odd Couple)
- La Terza Madre/The Mother of Tears (27 years after Inferno)
- The Color of Money (25 years after The Hustler)
- Psycho 2 (23 years after Psycho)