By Amani Salahudeen
Mary Poppins is back on the big screen in “Mary Poppins Returns,” which was released during the holiday season and is still in theaters.
Initially, I was skeptical of how Poppins would be portrayed when I found out that Julie Andrews wasn’t going to reprise her role, but Emily Blunt was fantastic as the beloved character. Early in the film, she is seen interacting with children during the song, “Can You Imagine That?” and it was easy to see some resemblance to Julie Andrews’ portrayal.
According to Variety, Andrews turned down an offer for a cameo appearance because she didn’t want to overstep Blunt’s performance.
The second film takes place 25 years after the original 1964 film. Jane and Michael Banks (Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw) are now adults. Michael is a widowed bank teller with three children, whom Jane helps raise. He and his sister soon learn that their home, the same one from childhood, will be foreclosed if they don’t repay a loan they took on the house. This all becomes the perfect recipe for a visit from none other than Marry Poppins, who comes to add cheer, adventure and structure to the next generation of Banks children.
After the death of their mother, Anabel and John Banks (Pixie Davis and Nathanael Saleh) take it upon themselves to take care of their father, Michael. This is not to say that Michael doesn’t do his fair share of parenting, but he is a flustered character in deep over his head with too much emotional and financial responsibility.
Davis does an excellent job portraying Anabel, as the oldest sibling who is essentially an adult stuck in a child’s body. John has a bit of a playful side and Georgie adds humor as the cute mischevious kid brother.
“Hamilton” fans should be delighted to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in this sequel. As a New Yorker, he did surprisingly well with a British accent. He plays Jack, a lamplighter and Bert’s apprentice from the original film. Miranda and Blunt have great chemistry as a duo with polar opposite attitudes, and his buoyant portrayal of Jack fits perfectly alongside Blunt’s hard-edged character.
In terms of the soundtrack, don’t expect to hear a replay of any original songs, but the new film’s composer, Marc Shaiman, tried to pay homage to the Sherman Brothers’ original works. If you think you hear just an echo or two from any of the first film’s classic melodies, you could be hearing right.
Some characters in the new sequel were not necessary for the plot and others were rarely shown. For instance, Poppins’s cousin, Topsy Turvy (Meryl Streep), was only shown in one scene. I love Streep’s acting, and she has long since been a household name, but she didn’t have a significant role or impact in the film. Her character did help the Banks family, but the film never showed how her story ended, which just felt like a gaping plot hole and I wanted more closure than what the film gave me.
The filmmakers focused more on appealing to the viewer’s nostalgia than crafting an ingenious script. Most of the film was predictable but certain cameo appearances (even though we miss Andrews) are enough to make this film worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of the classic.