A little boy runs home to say he was flying a kite and caught a nanny!
The nanny who floated down out of the sky is, of course, Mary Poppins. She has returned in a delightful sequel. This is a sequel, not a remake and takes place about 25 years after the original movie. I read an interview with Emily Blunt who is the new Mary Poppins. She said she deliberately did not study the original as she did not want to impersonate Julie Andrews. Instead, she read all eight of the books in the series and based her interpretation on how she was portrayed in the books. It was a good idea for Emily Blunt makes a wonderful Mary Poppins, stern, insistent on good manners and always with a twinkle in her eye.
The movie begins with Lin-Manuel as a London lamplighter singing about the London skies. We learn that as a child he had been an assistant to Dick Van Dyke as the chimney sweep 25 years earlier. He therefore recognizes Mary Poppins instantly and is not at all surprised to see her. He also knows the Banks’ home and remembers the children, Michael and Jane.
The movie now switches to that home. Michael is now a harried and frustrated adult with serious problems. He’s widowed with three small children. Jane helps out when she can but clearly, he's in need of a return visit from Mary Poppins.
His immediate problem is financial. He borrowed money from the bank a year ago and is now threatened with foreclosure on his home unless he comes up with the money in five days. He and his sister search the house for a paper (shares in the bank left by their father) that could rescue them. They don't find it but they do find a kite from their childhood. Michael impatiently tosses it out in the trash. The wind catches it and blows it straight to his youngest son. He's the little boy who flies the kite with the help of Lin-Manuel and catches a nanny!
Soon Colin Firth appears as a smarmy bank manager. Michael is taken in by his charm. We the audience suspect he’s a villain and so do the three children.
Does all this sound rather serious? It is but I think it’s appropriate for the times. In today’s world, children are going to hear about money problems and even the threat of losing your home. And in today’s world, children know all about the struggles of single parents even though it’s usually due to divorce.
So this is a movie with a heartfelt message about how even the worst problems can be solved. It’s not solemn. There are many delightful scenes. When the children are reluctant to take their baths, Mary Poppins leads them into an undersea adventure. When one of them accidentally cracks a valuable plate, they all go into another land to find a way to repair it. Soon after, Mary Poppins takes them to meet her cousin, played by Meryl Streep who lives in a topsy-turvy world but also does repairs.
And, as the plot gets them all into problems, Lin-Manuel leads a whole platoon of singing bicycle riding lamp lighters to the rescue.
We know this movie will have a happy ending at literally the last minute. Dick Van Dyke appears and at the age of 93, does a marvelous dance on top of a desk! He also wraps up the plot so the final scene can be with Angela Lansbury selling them all balloons that carry them up into the sky. This, of course, is the farewell of Mary Poppins until the next time she’s needed.
A wonderful movie.
Reviewed by Marian Powell