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‘Mary Poppins Returns’ (2018) Review: From Up Above

By: Larissa Couto

Look up! Mary Poppins is back. A few years have passed, and the Banks family is in desperate need of help, again. On the verge of losing his house, Michael Banks and his family see Poppins arrive full of magic and with a respectful charisma. If the viewer enters the movie theater with a cautious feeling and a nostalgic heart—wishing for a good film, but knowing that it will never be better than the first—worry no more: Mary Poppins Returns is a great movie. Mary Poppins takes the children on numerous adventures and takes the adults back to their sunshine days. Among all the songs, dance, and fantasy, what we all want to see is just what is promised: the return of the beloved nanny. And we’re not disappointed.

If the trailers made Blunt seem a little too uptight for the role, the movie convinces us otherwise. Emily Blunt is not Julie Andrews, but there is space for two Poppins. When asked to participate in the film, Andrews gracefully recused herself, saying that it was Blunt’s moment. And she couldn’t be more correct. Without Andrews on screen, we have enough time to see a new Poppins unveiled. It’s impossible not to compare the two, of course. Blunt’s Poppins is a little less sugary than Andrews; her approach is a tad more magical and disciplined, but nothing that hurts the idea we have for Poppins—it’s a different perspective that adds complexity. As someone who jumps inside a bowl and is friends with cartoonesque penguins, it makes sense that she’s not common; there’s a lot of mystery surrounding Poppins that Blunt explores in her slightly more rigorous acting choices. However, when she’s having fun, dancing, and enjoying herself, Poppins shows her childish side that works so well with children—and we see that she’s truly capable of knowing what hides inside everyone’s heart. One has to admire Blunt’s confidence in not only taking on a role as big as Mary Poppins and making it her own, but doing so in a way that turns our attention on her performance into a lovely film experience, making us feel that Poppins has successfully passed the umbrella on.

However, it’s not only Blunt that is captivating. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer as Michael and Jane Banks are delightful. Whishaw’s voice is gorgeous and Mortimer is just as we imagine Jane as an adult: kind and giggly. Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, Poppins’ friend and lamplighter, plays the role of an audience surrogate: we sympathize with Jack because we, the audience, see ourselves in him. The poor lamplighter that helps Poppins (and dances and sings with her), used to wave through a window at the Banks kids as a child. Miranda knows his role well and plays along. He stares at Poppins with fascination, as if saying: I’m standing beside her, I can’t believe it. Blunt takes the spotlight during the entire film, but Miranda delivers two of the best song-and-dance moments of the movie: “A Cover Is Not the Book” and “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.” In “A Cover Is Not the Book” we can even see Miranda rapping for a minute (which will make any Miranda fan smile). Marc Shaiman’s songs work very well, and you’ll leave the movies humming some of them.

Mixing adventure, touching moments, and even a little bit of romance, Mary Poppins Returns is an enjoyable story. We see the characters finding their places back in the world and welcoming the spring back into their lives. With tips of the hat to the original Mary Poppins, older fans will feel amused at Rob Marshall’s care to make a new film without missing the original essence—and Dick Van Dyke’s dancing, of course. The movie treats the “now-an-adult” audience the same way Poppins treats Michael Banks—we start the film in a deep winter where magic doesn’t exist anymore and we wonder if Mary Poppins could ever be magical again. Invited to slowly believe in Poppins and in the power of imagination, in a beautiful tale of adulthood and the need for kindness, we understand that Mary Poppins didn’t come back for the kids, but for the “now-an-adult” Banks’—and for us. In a time where we discuss if old movies should be remade instead of creating new stories, Mary Poppins Returns is a good industry strategy—it’s not a remake, but a sequel, which makes the film interesting enough to the general audience (with the nostalgic feeling preserved for those familiar with the original). In the end, we know that our balloon will colorfully fly away as we avoid saying goodbye to Mary Poppins.

Grade: A+

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