December 20, 2018

Mary Poppins Returns is in theaters on December 19th, 2018.

The age of the revival is upon us. With The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella, Disney has bequeathed us with a string of remakes no one has been asking for. In the next two years alone, Disney is giving us: Mulan, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Dumbo with even more slated over the next few years. Don’t even get us started on the planned sequels both Pixar and Disney have released and are in development on. It’d be a lie to say I won’t be in a theater seat for every one of those movies. But seriously, who is asking for these movies?

Mary Poppins Returns, on the other hand, is a movie so delightfully positive it makes me wonder, why didn’t we ask for this movie? Perhaps it’s because it’s a sequel and not a remake, or maybe it’s because Disney has had enough practice to finally hit a home run. Either way, Mary Poppins Returns is what a sequel should be.

Although the sequel comes 54 years after the original, the story only takes place a few decades after the original. This isn’t a modern retelling with Mary Poppins swerving in on a CGI hoverboard teaching the children to get off their smartphones with a song about maybe taking a little less than a spoonful of sugar with their medicine to stave off the obesity epidemic. Although a little heavy-handed with the nostalgia, instead we get the same retro style and beautiful hand-drawn animation. Paying homage to the original, we get beautiful sets, songs, and dances that spark imagination.

Everything about Mary Poppins Returns just feels overwhelmingly joyous. It is the family movie for the holiday season and harkens back to the same messages and warm fuzzy feelings as the original. It strikes the perfect balance between being too close to the original and being too far off. It’s familiar and comforting without being stale. Rather than competing with the original, the film is both an homage which resembles its namesake while not trying too hard to live up to it.

With as big of shoes to fill as Mary Poppins, it is truly a feat the sequel is able to deliver. Most incredibly, Emily Blunt is incredible as Mary Poppins. Both in her performance and her musical abilities. With Mary Poppins gliding in, on her umbrella of course, her cheery demeanor and effortless return makes it feel like she was never missing for any time at all. And Emily Blunt’s performance is so faithful and wonderful, it really does feel like it just might be the same Mary Poppins returning after no time at all. Not without its flaws, it is obviously impossible to live up to the original. Julie Andrews is sorely missed. And the film attempts to bite off more than it can chew, tackling tougher topics like financial hardship and the death of a family member. The story also feels a little undercooked, serving as an odd blend between the original Mary Poppins and Goodbye Christopher Robin, making it feel somewhat unoriginal and less vibrant than the rest of the film feels. And most strikingly, its soundtrack is not as memorable. Save a few good songs, it’ll be a surprise to hear anyone remembering the lyrics as they leave the theater.

Mary Poppins Returns does not carry the same staying power to be anywhere near the memorable mainstay in Disney history the original is. But it does capture the same cheer and essence of Mary Poppins. It’s loveable, vibrant, and joyful. The movie feels like less of a cash grab and more like a return down memory lane. It’s impossible to live up to the legend that is Mary Poppins, but Mary Poppins Returns is as faithful and close to living up to the original as we could have asked for.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Johnny Johnny (Senior Contributor) was born and raised in San Diego. He's been a fan of films the majority of his life. He enjoys the feeling it invokes and the power it has to take you to another place.
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