“Mary Poppins Returns”

 

            They got this sequel right.  “Mary Poppins Returns” is every bit as winsome and stellar as the original, and is a delight both to the ears and the eyes.

            The lamplighter, Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) is still singing as he attends to the lights around London, every dawn and dusk, but the Banks family has fallen on hard times.  Michael (Ben Whishaw) has taken out a second mortgage on the house, and he's fallen behind on his payments.  Though his father was an officer in that bank, the current President, Mr. Wilkins (Colin Firth), is merciless.  He has declared that he's going to exercise a clause in the contract that says the bank can foreclose on the house, promptly at midnight on Friday.  Michael is crestfallen, but so is his sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer), who's been helping around the house with the three young children, after Michael's beloved wife died.

            There's just enough sadness in the context to offset the silliness.  Michael is short-tempered with the children, and doesn't even remember being lighthearted like a carefree child himself.  But then Mary Poppins returns.  She looks like she hasn't aged a bit---because Emily Blunt is reprising the famous Julie Andrews role.  We don't expect her to sing like Julie Andrews, of course, but actually her voice is quite melodious, and she carries the tunes nicely, as well as a bit of dancing thrown in with the singing.

            The three children are themselves worth mentioning:  Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson) are all winsome and endearing, and can sing well enough themselves, as well.  There are three cameos that are well worth embracing, as well:  Meryl Streep as Topsy, Angela Lansbury as the Balloon Lady, and Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes, Jr., who dances on top of the desk, even at age 93!

            Lin-Manuel Miranda not only wrote “Hamilton,” he's also one of the very few to win an Emmy, a Tony, and a Grammy, and he may well complete the “EGOT” grand slam by winning an Oscar here. His performance is luminous.  Emily Blunt is also marvelous in the lead role, and deserves awards recognition of her own. 

            “Mary Poppins Returns” is one of those brilliant films that can be heartily recommended for all ages.  It's not only suitable for the whole family, it's uplifting.  And that can be said about only a very few special films.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association