“Mary Poppins Returns”
RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2018
MPAA RATING: PG (for some mild thematic elements and brief action)

The PL Travers character Mary Poppins has returned in a most delightful way.

Disney’s new film, “Mary Poppins Returns” finds a sweet balance between being an homage to the 1964 original (starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke) and standing quite well on its own as a cinematic treat.

In this storyline, the magical nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) revisits London’s 17 Cherry Tree Lane as the Banks family faces repossession of their beloved home. Here we meet the adult and widowed Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw) who is raising three children on his own with support from sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) who is following in her late mother’s community activist footsteps. Although the chimney sweep character Bert is referenced, that role has essentially been replaced by that of lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda). But Bert is not far from mind when the 93-year-old Van Dyke plays a key role as bank executive Mr. Dawes, Jr. late in the film.

Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods) knows his way around big screen musicals and succeeds quite well with this offering. The music by the writing team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman dovetails nicely with the extraordinary Sherman Brothers compositions of the original film, although the new songs are not as catchy nor likely to stand the test of time in terms of being memorable. The production design by John Myhre is breathtaking and certainly nostalgic for fans of the original “Mary Poppins” that is embedded in our mind’s eye.

Worth noting is the return to hand-drawn animation in Mary Poppin’s fantastical world (penguins and all); another tip-of-the-hat to the original film.

While I found some flaws with the film, including an unnecessary and contrived scene involving the character of Topsy (Meryl Streep) and a rather bland performance by the usually solid Colin Firth as the scheming antagonist, “Mary Poppins Returns” is a thoroughly entertaining film that all ages can enjoy. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 54 years before we are able to embrace this nonsensical nanny again.