Some may play a little coy about it, but let’s face it – we all really do want to see this giddily-anticipated update of the 1964 classic not-just-for-the-kids (sort of) children’s film.
And that’s the thing. P.L. Travers’ series of eight Mary Poppins novels – which, curiously enough, were published over a 54-year-period, from 1934 to 1988 – always towered above kiddie-lit fare, with their sharp wit and emotional complexity. As for the film version, most of us have gleefully sat and watched with our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews as Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke sang and danced their way through an assortment of realistically fantastical problems.
Now Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda have their go at playing Mary and Jack. And, naturally, the ethereal actress (The Girl on the Train, A Quiet Place) thoroughly steals the show – with her sly smile and expressive eyes…not to mention her way of delivering a line with charming aplomb. She makes Poppins all her own, a bit more camp and slightly more strict, steering the precocious, motherless Banks children through difficult times with a fierce self-determination.
If the music’s the thing for you, there’s every possibility you may find the songs not living up to those of the original. But the visuals are a delight, and the messages of empathy and self-belief are right there up front to be absorbed and taken away for future reference.
And if our divisive times have succeeded in beating it out of you, here’s the perfect opportunity to recapture your sense of wonder and whimsy.
Mary Poppins Returns opens Friday, December 19, and also stars Emily Mortimer, Colin Firth, the always brilliant Ben Whishaw, and, just for kicks, Dick Van Dyke himself.