I have no opinion on the songs in “Mary Poppins Returns.” They may be just as great as the songs in the 54-year-old original or maybe not. It may be that after hearing the original score about 200 times I have grown to like them. But the songs bring every bit as much brightness and joy as those familiar favorites from the former film. And we can enjoy the elaborate dance numbers as well. We even have a sequence with Mary Poppins dancing and singing with a whole cast of cartoon animals. Great stuff.
With Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins this time we have a switch from our leading lady as a truly great singer and an acceptable actress to a really great actress and an acceptable singer. Very few people can be a world-class something and also a world-class something else. Blunt can do things to her face with the merest twitch that lesser actresses cannot do with their whole body and a month of Sundays. She has exactly the right mode, tone and expression to be a magical British nanny.
In this sequel to “Mary Poppins” the kids from the first film are now grown up, the brother a recent and despondent widower and father of three. The sister lives across town on her own. The family has fallen on hard times in Depression-era London. The hard times are all the harder for the shifty actions of a dishonest banker, played by Colin Firth.
The makers have made a whole series of special treats for us, kind of around the edges of the story. You will enjoy a musical number by the most acclaimed living actress, Meryl Streep, grand and loony in a red wig. The male co-star in the original “Mary Poppins,” the 93-year-old Dick Van Dyke returns in a small but important role. Great to see him. Also supporting and also 93 we delight in seeing Angela Lansbury. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer play the grown-up brother and sister.
Things that surprised me included the quality of the child actors. Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson and Pixie Davies played the Banks’ children with a confidence well beyond their scant years. And the makers insisted that the animation be done in the old-fashioned way, hundreds of drawings. They enticed retired artists into one last effort.
This four saw blade, family pleasing film runs for two hours and 10 minutes. It carries a mild PG rating.