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“Mary” Pops in “Returns”
by Herbie J Pilato
A remarkable plethora of talent is resplendent throughout, behind the camera and on screen for Mary Poppins Returns, the new Disney sequel to the studio’s 1964 motion picture classic.
The ghost of Walt Disney and Julie Andrew’s original interpretation of the mystical nanny is prevalent in all the right places and frames of this thoroughly modern magical mystical tour de force. Sharing the screenwriting credit with David Macgee and John DeLuca, Marshall is clearly a fan of the original Poppins, as he makes certain Returns adheres to the visual and storied mythology of the revered first take (helmed by Robert Stevenson).
Right smack in the middle of it all, new Poppins lead Emily Blunt had big knickers to fill in stepping into Andrews’ puss and boots, but the award-winning actress adds a fresh face to the character; Blunt (a name that works for the character!) brings her own special brand of demure to what could easily have turned into a theatrical mess in the hands of a less fêted performer.
Andrews rejected the idea of making even a cameo into the mix of this dear Poppins fresh dough, ray of sunshine and glee, because, allegedly, she did not want to steal the spotlight from Blunt. But it’s also been said that her agent demanded more “moola” for her to apply any new rouge for Returns.
Fortunately, other veteran performers like always-perfect Angela Lansbury (as the Balloon Lady, the character allegedly written for Andrews), Dick Van Dyke (who starred in the original Mary, and makes a remarkable screen return of his own at 93!), Colin Firth, David Warner, and Meryl Streep (to a lesser extent), each deliver the goods.
And while Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer as the adult Banks siblings are nothing less than Shakespearean supreme, Returns’ fresh batch of child actors, Joel Dawson, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, light up the screen with vibrancy and an enormous bag of Bojangles skill that boggles for their age. And while, too, shades of the superior quality of stupendous original Poppinssongs by the Sherman brothers Richard and Robert can be heard in Returns, the still-very-much-alive musical maestro Richard Sherman served as a consultant on the new film’s catchy tunes and score composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman (who wrote the lyrics with Shaiman)….