Mary Poppins is back with a spoonful of nostalgia
Everyone’s favourite nanny, Mary Poppins, flies in bringing a spoonful of nostalgia to this week’s movie news
Aspoonful of nostalgia - make that several heaped spoonfuls - helps the joy-infused medicine of Rob Marshall’s 1930s-set musical fantasy go down in the most delightful way.
Based on the books by P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins Returns prescribes two hours of pure, sentiment-soaked escapism to banish the winter blues and jiggedy-jog our weary souls. It’s a lavishly staged carousel of whoop-inducing song and dance numbers that kicks up its polished heels in the face of cynicism and affectionately harks back to the 1964 Oscarwinning classic. Musical refrains from Chim Chim Cher-ee, Let’s Go Fly A Kite and The Perfect Nanny among others are seamlessly woven into the lustrous fabric of Marshall’s lavishly embroidered picture. Karen Dotrice, who played Jane Banks in the original, has a lovely cameo as an elegant lady in search of 19 Cherry Tree Lane and Dick Van Dyke proves he can still step in time as chairman of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank.
Emily Blunt is practically perfect in every way, making her entrance with a reverential nod to Julie Andrews - “Close your mouth, Michael. We are still not a codfish!” - as the London-born actress makes this iteration of the role her own with effortless efficiency. A new songbook by composer Marc Shaiman and lyricist Scott Wittman, writers of the Hairspray and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory stage musicals, lacks the immediately hummable melodies conjured by Oscar winners Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
However, when ditties hit their emotional mark, they are spit spot on.
A father’s heart-wrenching lament to his late wife is delivered with tearful restraint by Ben Whishaw, while Meryl Streep literally swings from a chandelier during her scenestealing solo, Turning Turtle. A year after Michael Banks (Whishaw) lost his wife Kate, and with her the light in his heart to guide their children Annabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson). His rabblerousing sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) is helping to care for the brood but the grief-stricken father is three months in arrears on a bank loan secured against 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Unless Michael can repay his dues by the end of the week, the family, including housemaid Ellen (Julie Walters), will be homeless. Thankfully, a high-flying kite snags magical nanny Mary Poppins (Blunt), who descends serenely to rekindle sparks of joy.
She is aided by luminous Cockney lamplighter Jack (Lin-manuel Miranda) and Topsy (Meryl Streep), her eccentric “second cousin... many times removed”. Before you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Marshall has us grinning ear to ear as we accompany the Banks clan on their fantastical odyssey.
Last year, we bathed in the glow of The Greatest Showman. This Christmas, it’s an exceedingly jolly ‘oliday.
Up, up and away... Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins