Mary Poppins Returns [2018] ★★★

Let’s take care of the elephant in the room right away: “Mary Poppins Returns” was never going to replace the beloved 1964 classic starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The original means so much to so many people to let any modern movie diminish it. That being said, I breathed a sigh of relief as soon as the new film opened. This is a joyful and well-made film, the kind Mary Poppins and its fans truly deserve. It manages to capture the spirit of the original with a terrific production design, eye-popping visuals, and catchy new songs. In terms of story, it’s important to know that this isn’t a remake by any means. It’s a sequel that takes place decades after the first story. Michael and Jane Banks are now grown ups, still living in their parents’ house. We learn that Michael’s wife passed away recently and he’s trying to take care of his three children. This is where Mary Poppins re-enters their lives, with her joyful spirit and magical skills. Cue the music and the dream-like sequences that truly defined the original. Emily Blunt is excellent as Poppins (and that’s no easy feat), and she’s surrounded by a first-rate cast that includes Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colin Firth, and even Meryl Streep in a small, but memorable role. There is just enough comedy and drama to satisfy fans of the original. Shortcomings? Upon first viewing, I’d say some of the songs were forgettable, and I felt the story dragged a little bit. But that’s a small price to pay for a movie that has “classic Disney” written all over it. I’ll say this with full confidence: it’s great to finally have Mary Poppins back in a movie that audiences of all ages can enjoy.

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