Mary Poppins Returns is the most delightful film this year with Emily Blunt holding her own in lead role

Dear reader, I’ll admit to being sceptical, nervous and almost dismissive of this film when it was announced.

I mean, come on – who do these Disney folk think they are cashing in on one of the most-loved and revered children’s films of all time?

Emily Blunt, as wonderful an actress as she is could’t possibly take the place of Julie Andrews surely?

Well super my cali and fragi my listic, this is the most delightful film I think I’ve seen all year.

It’s roughly 25-30 years since we first met Mary.

Michel and Jane Banks are now adults Michael has recently been widowed (classic Disney darkness) and along with his three children – Annabel, John and Georgie – is struggling both to fill the void and also to keep up with life.

Money is a cause for concern (Michael is an artist and if films tell us anything, it’s that creative people are crap at paying council tax) and they are in danger of having their house (still on Cherry Tree Lane – one of those streets in London that no bank teller / artist could actually afford) repossessed if a loan cant be repaid in a matter of days.

A vital document left by his father could save the day, but it is missing…

But, as we all know, just when you’re down on your luck, help arrives in the most unexpected of places.

In this case – the return of their nanny, Mary Poppins.

Michael and Jane can’t remember the magic, or at the very least have put it down to some vague, childish imagination (which is the only part of the film I found unbelievable, odd given it
comes just before a dolphin appears in a bathtub).

Along with the help of Jack, a friendly neighbourhood lamp lighter they go off on a familiar and nostalgic adventure, taking in song, dances and a few life lessons in self-care along the way.

Director Rob Marshall (previous work includes Into the Woods) knew exactly what he was doing here – from the opening sequence, with it’s references to chimney sweeps and bird ladies on the steps of St.Paul's – Mary Poppins Returns is a masterclass in homage and tribute – whilst never being afraid to look forward.

It must have been an incredibly daunting prospect for him – let alone for Blunt – and credit to them for never seemingly being afraid to tweak where they thought necessary.

It does get off to a stiff start – Blunt’sentrance in particular – a brief moment of panic where I thought it wasn’t going to work – but this is no facsimile of Julie Andrews, the persona has been developed.

Harsher in places, kinder in others. She has depth and occasionally a distinctly sassy and raunchy
glint in her eye.

Yes Andrews’ Poppins is a classic and untouchable – but Emily’s version lets her hair down and treats these kids with modern values.

She’s supported extremely well. Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda gives it some good old-fashioned cod-cockney as Jack, but Ben Wishaw’s Michael Bank comes close to stealing the whole show.

Wishaw is bloody fantastic, bringing some real pathos and heart. His rendition of ‘A Conversation’ – the film’s most touching song – should be a means test for all humans to see if they have a heart.

The songs have as much to live up to as the performers.

Whilst there is nothing quite as immediate as, say, ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman have come up with a plethora of tunes that, in the same way as The Greatest Showman captured our ears, feel instantly familiar.

The soundtrack will become a staple of many a school run for a long time (at least until Frozen 2).

There are a few star turns, with a couple of old faces making very pleasing returns.

Meryl Streep is also continuing to live her best life in a tippety-top turn as Topsy, Mary’s Eastern European cousin.

I guess if there are any criticisms to push it’s way, it could be accused of flitting from set piece to set piece for the sake of a song and the 2hr 20m running time may test the younger audience (I was far too busy laughing crying or wanting a cuddle).

I found myself fascinated by Poppins. Is she real? Was her magic a metaphor? Does it matter?

This is the Christmas treat we didn’t know we needed so much. Buy shares in Royal Doulton and allow yourself to regress back to a time when all we had to worry about was how to fly a kite.

Splendid stuff.

Mary Poppins Returns (U)



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