More than half a century ago, Mary Poppins became a sensation across the ocean, racking up multiple Oscars and winning hearts worldwide. In recent years, Disney, ever eager to mine its treasure trove of classics, decided to explore the other seven books that P.L. Travers wrote about the British nanny and produce a sequel. However, the sequel’s rather unimaginative title foreshadows the lack of creativity with which the project has been approached.
Taking no chances, Disney has played it safe at every turn. Emily Blunt, popular and likable, steps into the role of Mary Poppins, while seasoned musical director Rob Marshall takes the helm. Marshall, known for his success with Chicago and contributions to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, seems like a commercial safe bet. The theme revisited is the loss of childish playfulness and idealistic naïveté, which often wanes in adults as they face the complexities of life. The story picks up with Michael and Jane, the children from the original film, who have grown up to become rather jaded adults. Michael’s own children struggle to cope, despite being talented and competent. Once again, it’s time for the ageless, magical nanny to make her appearance.
While the premise may sound clichéd, why criticize a book series that has already proven its popularity? After all, it’s presumably what the audience wants.
The portrayal of Mary Poppins by Emily Blunt differs significantly from Julie Andrews’ interpretation from 60 years ago. While it seems more closely aligned with the character as described in the books, it also reflects changing societal norms. Unlike the original Mary Poppins, who relied on her beauty and was often overshadowed by men, the current version barely comments on physical attractiveness, focusing instead on her competence and magical prowess. Emily Blunt’s portrayal is stricter, even towards children, and is both more measured and nurturing. While one could engage in a lengthy discussion about how Disney subtly modernized the character to align with current sensibilities, there’s no need for such an elaborate analysis here. Simply put, Blunt succeeds in the role, even if her range of expression is somewhat constrained by the character she’s portraying.
Everything that worked in the original film is present here as well. For instance, we’re once again transported into Disney’s animated world—this time even featuring an action scene. Instead of tidying up a room, we have a bath scene, and the iconic dance choreography of chimney sweeps is replaced by lamplighters. As expected, the craftsmanship is exceptional. Although the new songs may not be as catchy or memorable as those in the first installment, the film’s $130 million budget is evident in its lavish sets.
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