Monday 7 January 2019 12:30 pm

Mary Poppins Returns review: Disney hits gold with this unlikely crowd-pleasing sequel


I'm the editor of City A.M. The Magazine, and editor of the daily newspaper's Life&Style section. We cover food, going out, art, technology and travel. I like to write about restaurants, theatre and video games.

I'm the editor of City A.M. The Magazine, and editor of the daily newspaper's Life&Style section. We cover food, going out, art, technology and travel. I like to write about restaurants, theatre and video games.

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Disney’s raid on its own back catalogue continues with this sequel to 1964’s Mary Poppins. Emily Blunt steps into the blue overcoat as Mary, who appears from the clouds to come to the aid of the now grown Banks children Michael and Jane (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer) to care for Michael’s own offspring following a bereavement.

Remember the original film? Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) certainly does, crafting a story that’s achingly faithful, making negative comparisons inevitable. There’s something joyous in the way everything looks, sounds, and feels like stepping back into the world we left over fifty years ago. New animated sequences are a highlight, and perhaps most importantly Blunt is on song in the lead role. She’s more knowing than Julie Andrews, which works in this new era, capturing the requisite spirit without resorting to mere imitation.

If you’re determined to get swept up in the nostalgia, you probably won’t notice the film’s shortcomings. After all, recent musicals The Greatest Showman and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! became smash hits by focusing on fun rather than plot. But make no bones: there are plenty of flaws here. The songs don’t make as much of an impact as the first film, proving a little safe while reminding us how daring the original film was.

The supporting cast are also hit-and-miss. The exceptional talents of Lin-Manuel Miranda are wasted in the role of Jack, a cockney lamplighter seemingly only in the film because Dick Van Dyke is too old to step in time (the legend does appear in another small role).

Mary Poppins Returns feels like most of Disney’s recent revivals: there’s enough there to conjure a sense of nostalgia, but it leans too heavily on the memory of a better film. It’s unlikely to live long in the memory, but as a bit of temporary festive fun, it serves its purpose.

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