In the age of sequels, you have to ask – do we really need a Mary Poppins sequel? The answer is yes. All the way yes.
The prospect of a sequel to a vaunted property like Mary Poppins is one you’d not expect to be carried off too successfully. You can throw all the money in the world at something, but without the right touch and the right combination of ingredients, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Odds are it’s not going to work.
There would need to be a real skill in revitalising a decades-old franchise: Mary Poppins was a hit in 1964, and despite many attempts to make a sequel or reboot, the franchise was stalled—in part because of the recalcitrance of original author PL Travers. But in the advent of her death, the estate just got paid and they have managed in this film to bring a modern spin to the material all the while keeping the tone and spirit of the first film in check. The musical set pieces from the first aren’t replicated in as much as supplemented. And the film’s beats and tone sit well when compared to the original. It’s hard to walk out of the cinema humming the tunes, but then again you’ve not had 54 years of repeat viewings to have them buried in your hippocampus.
But with Mary Poppins Returns, you have to hand it to Disney: they’ve managed to take something which has, through enough repeat viewings over the years (and the fact that it was smashing to begin with), become untouchably iconic, and turned out a sequel which is truly equal to the task. It maintains the original flavours—Marc Shaiman’s score and songs help to no end, but in close to every technical and other aspect of the piece, you really can’t fault it. From Emily Blunt’s note-perfect performance, to the choreography, the costumes, music, editing, sound, production design, every last bit of it works.
Cynics will no doubt be unimpressed; thus the nature of cynics. But the thing is, those same cynics would have no doubt thought little of the original film. A follow-up that does what it can to replicate that original’s magic and sense of fun is not going to warm the cockles of your doubters.
It’s close to flawless, this thing. It works beautifully well. It really shouldn’t, but it does. It’s hard to fathom how they could have nailed the brief so well after so long—it’d have been the easiest thing in the world to totally bollocks it all up. You cannot fault it.