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Mary Poppins Returns
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt as everyone's favorite magical nanny and Lin-Manuel Miranda as her Cockney lamplighter pal, is a sequel to Mary Poppins, the Oscar-winning 1964 classic. As she did before, the flying, singing, lesson-imparting Mary arrives to help the Banks children -- this time, the three kids of a now grown-up Michael, whose wife died a year before the movie starts (he and the children speak and sing about missing her) and whose family home is in danger of repossession. The sequel departs from the original by adding a clear villain and a few scenes of peril/suspense (including a mostly animated but still tense chase through a dark wood), though nothing ever gets too scary. But it follows in the original's footsteps with its catchy songs and strong messages about imagination, gratitude, empathy, kindness, looking past the surface, and -- of course -- being close to your family and believing in yourself.
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What's the story?
Disney's MARY POPPINS RETURNS is a musical set in the 1930s, more than two decades after the events of the original Mary Poppins. Siblings Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) are now adults, and Michael, a recent widower, lives in his childhood home with his three children -- John (Nathanel Saleh), Anabel (Pixie Davies), and Georgie (Joel Dawson) -- and their put-upon housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters). But he's having trouble making ends meet in Great Depression-era England. The next generation of Banks kids are in for a treat when Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to Cherry Tree Lane to care for them and teach the entire family valuable lessons ... with a little help from Cockney lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda). When the bank, under the management of William Weatherall Wilkins (Colin Firth), calls Michael and Jane's loan in, everyone does their best to make sure that the Banks family doesn't lose their beloved home.
Is it any good?
Blunt unquestionably makes Mary Poppins her own while also keeping nostalgic viewers happy with tributes to the original in this whimsical, playful sequel. Director Rob Marshall loves making big-budget Hollywood musicals, and in Mary Poppins Returns, he ambitiously creates a delightful world that families with kids of all ages will be eager to dive into and enjoy. Everything from the amazing production design to the colorful costumes to the catchy, upbeat songs penned by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (a few of which contain references to the Sherman Bros.' original 1964 score) has that Disney glow. The performances are all good, with Blunt leading the way. Miranda's Cockney accent is a little subtler than Dick van Dyke's was (British folks notoriously panned the lovable actor for his over-the-top attempt), and, refreshingly, there isn't a hint of romance between his Jack and Mary. Instead, they're old friends who show the three Banks kids how to be imaginative and helpful. Whishaw and Mortimer are well cast as the grown-up Michael and Jane, and Meryl Streep memorably joins the proceedings as Poppins' eccentric cousin Topsy.
If there's a relatively weak spot in the movie, it's the plot, which is fairly thin and predictable (many moviegoers will figure out exactly where those missing bank documents are), but you don't watch a Disney musical expecting Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-style twists. The musical numbers are especially fun, and it's a pleasure to see Blunt and Miranda sing and dance together. Hamilton fans are rewarded with the big, Miranda-led lamplighters' song "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" (a clear successor to the original's "Step in Time"), and his and Blunt's rousing vaudeville duet "A Cover Is Not the Book" is also quite memorable. The lullaby "The Place Where Lost Things Go" is lovely, and "Nowhere to Go But Up" will make audiences remember the joy of "Let's Go Fly a Kite." Will this sequel replace the original in moviegoers' hearts? Probably not. But it's still a sweet spoonful of sugar.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the many lessons that Mary Poppins teaches the Banks family in Mary Poppins Returns. What are the key things they learn from her?
What elements or themes from the original Mary Poppins are present in the sequel?
How does this movie compare to the original? What did you like best about the new movie? Least?
- In theaters: December 19, 2018
- Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emily Mortimer, Ben Whishaw
- Director: Rob Marshall
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Communication, Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude, Integrity
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild thematic elements and brief action
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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