The magical nanny Mary Poppins comes back to the Banks family after a few decades to sing songs, teach lessons about being a kid, and kick some nostalgic tires.
Thinking back on the original Mary Poppins, beyond the ear-worm songs, brings to mind a fresh faced 29 year old Julie Andrews as a kind yet stern nanny to some neglected kids. They needed a nanny, and she delivered. In the 2018 version, it seems Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has returned to those kids who are all grown up to help them remember to be kids. Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) have followed in their parents footsteps as an activist and a banker. Tragedy has followed them, however, as their parents seem to have gone off to a farm in the sky, and Michael's wife and mother of his children has died. Alone and about to lose the family home, the Banks family needs some help. Mary Poppins literally rides in on nostalgia, an old kite from the first film bringing her to earth. From there, the nanny and lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) jump and dance and sing to bring some joy and peace to the Banks family. For the most part the journey is delightful, as is Colin Firth as the greedy bank manager trying to steal the family home. The musical numbers are a throwback to music videos of the 1980s with lots of bright colors and smooth dancing. While watching, I hoped that they would lean in a bit more with the plot as a true musical, but for the most part they are spectacle. One in particular, a bawdy cabaret number "A Cover is Not the Book" had me thinking a creepy thought, "well, this one is for the moms and dads out there." Overall, the tone of the film scratches the nostalgic itch while, like most other sequeled properties, misses what made the original special. Mary Poppins (who I realized while writing this can only be referenced by her full name) is more cheeky and clever, not talking down to the modern audience with spoonfuls of sugar. Emily Blunt is the standout star of the film, the focus of every scene she's in with magnetizing effortlessness. For the most part, the film updates the original, yet at times does not feel like its own thing. It could be compared to rebuilding a classic car with newer materials, something about the plastic and flashy curves cannot reproduce what heavy steel and solid lines create.
A fun family film with flashy musical numbers, this film curses itself with the original's shadow.