A Brief, Effusive Review of Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Ever since it was first announced that Emily Blunt would be playing Mary Poppins in a sequel directed by Rob Marshall, I could not wait for the film to hit theaters. With every tidbit and casting decision that was released, my excitement grew. And then there was the first full trailer. As soon as my beloved Dick Van Dyke appeared, I started sobbing, a reaction that surprised even me.

But none of that compared to actually seeing the film. From beginning to end, Mary Poppins Returns had me in the palm of its polka-dot-gloved hand. Every frame, every musical note, every little detail was crafted with such love and respect for the original 1964 classic, which some people believe is a strike against it since it makes the film hesitant to stray away from what made its predecessor so iconic. I get that. But I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t enjoy every single second.

Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s gorgeous score effortlessly captures the story’s joy, heartache, and playfulness. The production design and costumes are the most sumptuous eye candy you could ask for. Rob Marshall continues to prove that he is the successor to such filmmakers as Stanley Donen and Charles Walters, artists who truly understood and revered musicals. All of these elements made me appreciate Mary Poppins Returns, but it was the cast that made me adore it.

Ben Whishaw gives such a sweet, delicate performance as a grown-up Michael, while Emily Mortimer and Julie Walters inject some much needed vivacity as Jane and Ellen the cook. Colin Firth is perfect as the film’s villain, and his lackeys (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Jeremy Swift) feel like they came straight from classic Hollywood’s stable of brilliant character actors. Lin-Manuel Miranda, of course, does a terrific job and Meryl Streep is great fun as Mary’s cousin Topsy, but if there is one person that this film belongs to, it is Emily Blunt, without a question. The whole thing rests on her practically perfect shoulders and she delivers in spades. No one could touch Julie Andrews’s Oscar-winning performance — but Blunt comes pretty darn close.

The casting I appreciated the most, though, was that of Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury. I must admit that when anyone from classic Hollywood gets any kind of recognition in today's Hollywood, I get pretty teary-eyed. Sophia Loren in Nine, Michael Caine in Christopher Nolan's films, Glynis Johns in While You Were Sleeping, the standing ovations Shirley MacLaine has received at many recent awards shows... all of those have made me misty. It's just so lovely to see that these people haven't been forgotten, especially in contemporary culture where things come and go so fast and people ignore that there were films before 1970.

This is all to say that Mary Poppins Returns obliterated me. The second Van Dyke walked on the screen, I couldn't stop grinning. His scene was absolutely enchanting, beautifully evoking the charm of the 1964 film while propelling the 2018 version's narrative forward. (Side note: the script makes an amazing plot point connection between the two films that will just melt you.)

And then there came Angela Lansbury. Just when I thought my heart couldn't take any more life-affirming sweetness, Lansbury appears as a balloon vendor whose balloons send the characters flying to the skies as they revel in acting like children again. Words cannot even express how pure and exuberant this scene is. The song, "Nowhere to Go But Up," demonstrates that Lansbury is still in fine voice and although she is only around for one scene, her short appearance exemplifies why the woman is a national treasure who deserves to be in everything. You can see a very short clip of Ms. Lansbury here and you can listen to the full song's audio here.

If you're uncertain about Mary Poppins Returns, that's understandable. Part of me was convinced that it couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. But I loved this film. From top to bottom, it was, well... magical.


This is my entry to the Adoring Angela Lansbury Blogathon. Check out the other tributes to this incredible lady here!


  1. We saw the movie on New Year's Day taking our autistic/developmentally delayed son to celebrate his birthday. He has the original film committed to memory and sat through this without fidgeting or wanting to leave (sometimes after long trailers and a long movie, he gets antsy and doesn't hide it). When Dick Van Dyke showed up he softly whispered "Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes". He was almost as excited as when he saw Richard M. Sherman's name in the opening credits.

    Also, the hubby and I were enthralled! The man I married has always had a thing for Julie Andrews. Go figure.

    1. It sounds like seeing this movie was as exciting for your family as it was for mine! It's incredible how we connect to films, in particular Disney ones (for my family, at least).

      I'd say your husband has good taste!

  2. Oh, and one other thing! I must mention that our son calls his grandmother (my mom) Angela Lansbury. An older lady with a short hairdo. It must be Angela Lansbury, the host of his favourite Disney TV special, A Legacy in Song. He wore the VHS tape out. My mom loves it when he calls her Angela Lansbury, especially when we are out in public.

    1. How sweet! I don't blame your mom -- I would want to be called Angela Lansbury, too!

  3. Thanks for your lovely sweet review of this film and for joining the blogathon. You sound like me I do love seeing those older actors in later films - they always add so much more to the film. I've added this to todays post - got the post last night - so it gets the coverage it deserves.

    1. Thanks, Gill! It's always a treat seeing these actors still being offered work and recognition.

  4. I thought this movie was a delight! None of the songs were as memorable as the original, but the storyline faithful to both the PL Travers books and the original film. Lovely to see Lansbury as the Balloon Lady, so similar to the Birdwoman from the original...and Emily Blunt can do no wrong, not can Lin Manuel and the ageless Dick Van Dyke. !! Loved it!

    1. I agree with you on all counts! It wasn't until my second viewing that the songs really grew on me. Now I get them stuck in my head constantly, but I still don't think they're instant classics like the original's were. Still, it's a wonderful film and I'm glad you enjoyed it, too!

  5. So...you're saying I should see this movie? :)


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