Happiest Film of the Year
Disney’s new version of the popular Mary Poppins stories is, hands down, the most tuneful musical of the holiday season or any other season, come to think of it. Mary Poppins Returns wins the accolade as happiest movie of the year! And what a splendid new Mary Poppins is Emily Blunt. Not to take anything away from our beloved original Mary, the splendid Julie Andrews. But Blunt brings us into a new era with an entirely different story than the original 1964 film. Blunt is a versatile actress who has shown her talent in various films such as the musical Into the Woods, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Girl on the Train.
Sometimes the folks at Disney studios in Burbank get everything right, and this jiggedy-jog of a spirited movie seems to have hit all the right notes (no pun intended). The film is a visual delight because of creative artist John Myhre’s brilliant production design, Sandy Powell’s eye-popping costumes, and cinematographer Dion Beebe’s loving lenses. The sets capture both realistic Cherry Tree Lane townhouses and the almost cartoon-like other images of 1930s buildings in London. Attention to detail is exquisite and will make any British architect -- who has designed homes such as the Banks’ family abode -- proud.
Now that the original Banks children have grown up from the original film, the story takes a look at their current life with Ben Whishaw portraying the young dad Michael to his three young children, played charmingly by Nathan Saleh, Pixie Davies and Joel Dawson. Recently widowed, both he and the children are having a difficult time dealing with their loss. Michael’s sister, played engagingly by Emily Mortimer, rounds out the family. Overseeing the household is grumpily-funny Julie Walters. Most recently Dame Walters (DBE, two-time Oscar®-nominee) cheered movie audiences in the hit musical Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
Whishaw is a likeable type of chap, and his Michael conveys all the grief and sadness a young father might have when losing his mate. But the story is not maudlin, and Mary Poppins’ mystical powers help get the children through the dramatic part of the story with songs (by the top musical geniuses Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) that takes them and the audience on whimsical voyages under the sea, via a bathtub!
Director Rob Marshall knows his way around a musical, having choreographed this film with John DeLuca, and steered the casts of Chicago and Into the Woods into international hits. As a nod to those performers who pioneered many a tuneful show, Marshall has cast both Dick Van Dyke, age 93, (the chimney sweep in the original film) and Angela Lansbury, age 93, (graduate of the MGM school of dramatic arts and star of Broadway smashes Mame and Sweeney Todd) to show youngsters there is still an “entertainment gene” still functioning in these old-timers.
Broadway genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man who created the sensational musical hit Hamilton, here becomes Poppins’ sidekick as a lamplighter who doubles as a song-and-dance man whenever the mood strikes -- and delights us in the process.
The film is wonderful treat for the kids, mom & pop, and everybody who loves a tuneful musical with costumes and sets swathed with every hue in the paintbox. It’s going to make you very happy, and for once you won’t leave the theater wanting to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. Go, enjoy, and tap your feet to the wonderful music as you relish the talented charms of Miss Blunt, and the rest of the very, very accomplished cast. This film is a big winner.
(Released by Walt Disney Studios and rated “PG” for some mild thematic elements and brief action.)