When I’d discovered Disney were making Mary Poppins, for some reason I got it into my head it was a remake. My first thoughts were “please leave that one alone, is nothing sacred?”. I spent most of my childhood watching the wonderful Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and cast once a year at Christmas. “A Spoon full of Sugar” could always be heard being warbled by all in our house for a few days thereafter. I was delighted when I realised it is a SEQUEL! The clue is in the title…Mary Poppins RETURNS. The next chapter as it were. In fact, it’s the longest gap for a Disney sequel of all time. And oh, have they got it so right. In my mind a sequel should be better than the first, ideally. Or at the very least match it. The film pays homage to the original but brings all the technology and filmmaking skills we have now. A new Classic?
Mary Poppins is co-written and directed by Rob Marshall who bought us a couple of my favs movies “Chicago”, “Into the Woods” and “Memoirs of a Geisha” to name but a few. A well-seasoned pro. To be honest the director had to be something special to meet huge expectations. He doesn’t disappoint!
“…It’s a truly cinematic delight with a massive heart.”
The film is set 25 years after the original. The Banks children Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now grown up. It’s set in 1930’s London; the depression. The family are suffering the loss of Michael’s wife and the mother to the three children in the film, John (Nathanel Saleh), Anabel (Pixie Davis) and George (Joel Dawson). The story is told from their perspective. The children overhear a conversation where they discover they may lose their house to the bank, or more specifically Wilkins/Wolf (Colin Firth), in seven days. Unless Michael and Jane pay back a loan taken out after the passing of their mother. With the family in trouble none than Mary Poppins flies in to help!
I was lucky enough to attend a preview screening and Q&A with the director and members of the team behind this magical film. Cast, producers, composers, choreographer and production designer. Years in the making from the first thought to fruition. I have a huge appreciation of just how special this movie is. The love, passion and work to make ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is palpable. Marshall’s attention to detail is second to none. Such as bringing hand drawn animators out of retirement despite the fact, according to one of the producers John DeLuca, that “their craft is no longer particularly fashionable”.
The very first scenes filmed were the animation sequences with the actors only using green screen. That footage was then passed to the animators to work their magic. Hand drawn animation takes a LONG time and can only happen after the action is shot. Those scenes are so incredibly exciting, producing some fly by the seat of your pants sequences that can only exist in the cartoon world. To say thrilling would be an understatement. I felt like that child again, watching Mary Poppins on TV. That same two-dimensional cartoon effect we enjoyed so much, back when things were simpler! The film has a traditional formula, goodies/baddies, which, let’s face we all love.
Rob always wanted to make Mary Poppins and whilst working with Emily Blunt on ‘Into the Woods’ he knew she was his Mary Poppins. No one else. She certainly proved to be the perfect choice. Involved from the very beginning also was Lin-Manuel Maranda (‘Hamilton’ the musical) playing Jack the lamplighter.
Emily Blunt’s performance as Mary Poppins is faultless. She offers up a different Mary Poppins to that of Julie Andrews some 50 years ago. She said she felt as an actress she didn’t want to emulate but rather leave Julie’s rendition alone. Emily, as with the entire team went back to the books written by P.L Travers which, if you are unfamiliar, have a slight edge. With an absolute killer cast consisting of Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, David Warner, Angela Lansbury and Dick Van Dyke, who makes an appearance offering up a fabulous musical number at 93 years old. Also, my mate Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Frye! Every single performance commits fully to what could be argued an “out dated” genre of musical. With months of rehearsal beforehand many, produced well observed fully fledged characterisations by all players. I say players, not just because it’s a Shakespearean way of saying actors, as they all look like they had tremendous FUN.
As with the original, the songs are toe tappingly enjoyable. All catchy probable classics with beautiful, memorable moral messages. Titles such as; ‘Nowhere to go but up’, ‘The Place where lost things go’ and ‘A Cover is Not a Book’ to name but few. Aspects of the Choreography is so now, with a nod to old large scale jazz numbers.
They say it takes a village to make a movie; well the ‘Mayor’ of this Village, Rob Marshall, leads with amazing forward thinking vision.
This movie is perfect, not just for Christmas or for the young, but everyone. I urge you to see this film wholeheartedly, it’s beautiful. Take the entire family to the cinema to see it. I know that it can expensive, especially in London, but it’s a gift that’ll keep on giving. It’s a truly cinematic delight with a massive heart. I’m still touched by this fantastical film. It reminded me to never forget to pay attention to the child in me.
“It’s perfectly perfect in every way” – Mary Poppins.
Take a look at the Trailer
Reviewed by Karen Bryson
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