The Sunday Magazine: Mary Poppins Returns

I am not sure if it was the first movie I went to see in a theatre. It certainly was one of the first movies I ever was taken to see. For my birthday in 1964 my mother took me to the Coral Theatre on Ponce de Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables. The Coral was a movie palace with a wrap around marquee. On that day in big red letters the title of the movie we were going to see was spelled out; Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins was a movie I have seen throughout my life. It has always been a favorite. Even though it was highly fictionalized I found the 2013 movie “Saving Mr. Banks” about the making of Mary Poppins also entertaining. As I was learning to read, the Mary Poppins books were what I shared with my grandmother as after-dinner story time. I knew I had an affection for the material. As the promotional push for the new movie “Mary Poppins Returns” began I realized how much the “practically perfect nanny” meant to me. I became more excited to spend a couple of hours with the new version.

The basic story of Mary Poppins Returns still revolves around the Banks children at 17 Cherry Tree Lane in London. As the movie opens the two children from the original movie have grown up. Jack has just lost his wife becoming a single father to his three children. Jane is a single woman who retains her mother’s desire to fight for the rights of those who need it. When the children bring Mary Poppins home to her now grown-up charges, she says she has returned to take care of the Banks children. When the actual children say, “Us?” her reply of “Yes you, too.” sets the tone.

Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack

This is a beautifully done movie with respect for the artists who worked on the original movie. It shows in the main credits. One of the great Disney artists of the 1960’s Peter Ellenshaw painted many of the matte backgrounds for the movie. As the opening credits roll, with a true orchestral overture, some recently discovered work by Mr. Ellenshaw from Mary Poppins is blended with new art inspired by those paintings. It is a subtle way of taking us back to a different kind of movie. This kind of care is shot throughout the movie. If you loved the original there are many callbacks.

Most importantly the two leads of Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack the Lamplighter are perfect. Ms. Blunt captures the heart of Mary Poppins as she takes the next generation of Banks children on adventures. Mr. Miranda is along for the ride as the willing accomplice. The movie has another live-action and animation set piece which is done in the same style of hand-drawn animation as it was in Mary Poppins. From the moment the animated flowers started to swirl on screen I think my smile could not have been wider.

Mary Poppins Returns is an old-fashioned movie musical with a happy ending. It reminded me of the way movies have always been able to elevate my mood. I glided out of the theatre humming the tunes all the way home.

Mark Behnke

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