Years after helping the Banks children, Mary Poppins returns to help a grownup Michael Banks reconnect with his children in the sequel “Mary Poppins Returns.” She has new songs and this time is getting help from a lamplighter named Jack who previously served as an apprentice to Burt the chimney sweep from the original film. It’s not as good as the original, but it’s a worthy sequel.
In this film, Michael is now a widower with three kids who must find a way to save his home. Meanwhile, Jane has taken up the activist role that her mother previously held, although she’s still active in the lives of her nieces and nephews. That’s when Mary Poppins returns to assist with the children, and help Michael recapture his youth while also showing Jane there’s a man right outside her window who is interested in who she is, in the form of Jack.
Despite coming 54 years after the original, the sequel finds a way to hit in a similar vein. Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda are excellent singers and they bring the songs in this film to life, much in the same way Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke did in the original. The songs are fun, but they aren’t as catchy. There’s no “Spoonful of Sugar” or “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I was bobbing my head and swaying in my seat, but I don’t remember the lyrics to any of the songs. They are show tunes, but nothing that will stick with you.
Mary Poppins is an iconic role that’s almost impossible to live up to. Julie Andrews was the perfect casting for the original. Filling her shoes was a daunting task, but Emily Blunt found a way to do it. While there have been many people who have been suggested to succeed Andrews in the role over the years, Blunt is the only one I believe who could do it. If they had tried anyone else, I think the film would’ve failed. They had to wait to find the perfect Poppins, and Blunt is practically perfect in every way.
To go along with Poppins, they needed a man who could sing and bring some magic to the role of Jack. He had to be the successor to Burt. Replacing Dick Van Dyke is almost as impossible as replacing Julie Andrews. That being said, Lin-Manuel Miranda shines here. We know from his work on “Hamilton” and “Moana” that he’s a talented singer, rapper and songwriter. Miranda is excellent as both a singer and actor here as he ends up playing a love interest for Jane.
There are also two amazing cameos in this film that must be addressed. The first is, of course, Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr. He’s playing the son of the second character he played in the original. His coming in at just the right time to help the Banks family is exactly what you would expect from Mr. Dawes Jr. after his role in the first film. He was 91 while filming the scene, and yet, the filmmakers had to put makeup on him to make him look older. That’s just amazing to me.
The second cameo is Angela Lansbury as the Balloon Lady at the end of the film who gives the characters the balloons that helps them fly. The cameo was originally offered to Julie Andrews. There are reports she turned it down because she felt her presence would distract from Blunt’s performance. There are also reports that Lansbury was in the running to play the original Mary Poppins before losing the role to Andrews. Either way, Lansbury is an acting legend and her appearance is a wonderful tie to similar Disney films as she did play the lead in “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” another film in the same vein as “Mary Poppins.”
The songs may be somewhat forgettable, and it may not be as good as the original. But “Mary Poppins Returns” is still amazing. It’s a great sequel that was worth the 54 year wait.