Flying nanny returns in spirited sequel to 'Mary Poppins'

  • Emily Blunt takes over Julie Andrews' iconic role in "Mary Poppins Returns."

    Emily Blunt takes over Julie Andrews' iconic role in "Mary Poppins Returns." Courtesy of Disney

  • A confident Emily Blunt takes over Julie Andrews' signature character in the new musical "Mary Poppins Returns."

    A confident Emily Blunt takes over Julie Andrews' signature character in the new musical "Mary Poppins Returns." Courtesy of Disney

  • Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has a ball with the boys in "Mary Poppins Returns."

    Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has a ball with the boys in "Mary Poppins Returns." Courtesy of Disney

  • Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), left, Anabel (Pixie Davies), Georgie (Joel Dawson), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) jump for joy in "Mary Poppins Returns."

    Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), left, Anabel (Pixie Davies), Georgie (Joel Dawson), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) jump for joy in "Mary Poppins Returns." Courtesy of Disney

 
 
Updated 12/19/2018 12:48 PM

"Mary Poppins Returns" - ★ ★ ★

It may not be super, but it still qualifies as a califragilisticexpialidocious sequel to Walt Disney's 1964 live-action/animated mashup musical "Mary Poppins."

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At 130 minutes, Rob Marshall's stylish and spirited "Mary Poppins Returns" loses a portion of its narrative momentum, despite being the cinematic second coming of the world's most famous flying British nanny.

The catchy songs engage well enough, but none matches the uplifting whimsy of the Sherman Brothers' ditty "Let's Go Fly a Kite" or the verbal audacity of their original signature tune referred to in the first paragraph.

"Mary Poppins Returns" does feature a stellar performance by the confident, chameleonic Emily Blunt, who effortlessly slips into the caringly cool persona created by Julie Andrews, even if Blunt lacks the crystal clarity and five-octive range of Andrews' incredible voice.

Two siblings (Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw) greet their former nanny (Emily Blunt) in "Mary Poppins Returns."
Two siblings (Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw) greet their former nanny (Emily Blunt) in "Mary Poppins Returns." - Courtesy of Disney
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Mary Poppins Returns," inspired by several literary sequels written by P.L. Travers, takes place during 1930s London, long after the child characters from the first film have become parents themselves.

In the first film, Mary popped in to help the Banks kids deal with their absent workaholic father. Now, she returns to help the Banks family deal with the loss of the mother, sorely missed by morose husband Michael (Ben Whishaw), his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael's cute kids (Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies and Joel Dawson).

A Banks boy (Joel Dawson) slowly befriends a flying nanny (Emily Blunt) in "Mary Poppins Returns."
A Banks boy (Joel Dawson) slowly befriends a flying nanny (Emily Blunt) in "Mary Poppins Returns." - Courtesy of Disney

The flimsical plot has boo-hissable capitalistic villain William Weatherall Wilkins (Colin Firth) determined to seize the Banks' house through foreclosure while pretending to help them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Musical superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda works overtime being likable as Jack, a spiritual reincarnation of Dick Van Dyke's chimney sweep Bert, now armed with a better Cockney accent. Meryl Streep's accent is even better during a brief musical respite.

Jack the gaslight keeper (Lin-Manuel Miranda) leads a musical number in "Mary Poppins Returns."
Jack the gaslight keeper (Lin-Manuel Miranda) leads a musical number in "Mary Poppins Returns." - Courtesy of Disney

Van Dyke, 93, makes an energetic cameo near the end, cementing the film's nostalgic appeal along with an appearance by Angela Lansbury, also 93.

Fans of Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks" may know that Travers did not like 1964's "Mary Poppins." For one thing, the writer could not tolerate the blasphemy of fabricated words.

So, maybe she would have liked "Mary Poppins Returns" slightly better?

• • •

Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Colin Firth, Dick Van Dyke, Meryl Streep

Directed by: Rob Marshall

Other: A Walt Disney Pictures release. Rated PG. 130 minutes

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