Family Movie Review: Mary Poppins Returns (PG)

'Mary Poppins Returns' is colorful, fun, and almost exactly the same as its predecessor.

Kernel Rating: 3.5 (3.5 out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG Length: 130 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 6+. The movie opens with a family grieving the loss of a parent, and that sadness continues throughout the film as the widower and his children both mourn the death; that subplot may be a little overwhelming for younger children, as may be the possibility that the family will lose their home because of predatory banking and loaning practices. Otherwise, a lot of this content is charming and aimed for younger children; there is a moment of peril with an animated wolf chasing the children through dark woods, siblings fight but eventually make up, there is a very light flirtation and the mention of a childhood crush between two adult characters, and there is one song that is a little suggestive in its content, with very light allusions to sex and drinking, that children won't pick up on but that parents might.

By Roxana Hadadi

It's a little unclear what exactly "Mary Poppins Returns" is, a sequel to the original Disney film or a reboot of it, but either way, the movie is a lively, colorful bit of nostalgia that doesn't entirely capture its predecessor's appeal but is still quite enjoyable.

Arriving in theaters 54 years after the 1964 film with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, "Mary Poppins Returns" picks up 25 years after the events of the preceding film, in which the Banks family were visited by the seemingly magical nanny Mary Poppins. In this film, the Banks children Michael (Ben Whishaw, of "Paddington 2") and Jane (Emily Mortimer, of "Hugo") are all grown up, and Michael was widowed a year previously, leaving him alone to raise his three young children, Annabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson).

MaryPoppinsReturns ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReview1The family is struggling: Money is tight, Michael desperately misses his wife, and the family learns that the bank wants to repossess on their home, leaving them only a few days to pay off a loan. Into this atmosphere of despair enters Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt, of "My Little Pony: The Movie"), floating down on a kite to take care of the Banks children.

What that means is not only caring for Annabel, John, and Georgie, who have been forced to become more mature since their mother's death, but Michael and Jane, too. With the lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda, of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens") by her side, Mary Poppins makes it her mission to help the Banks family keep their house and appreciate the joys and wonder of childhood -- all while masking her magic as "nonsense" and "ridiculous" so that the adults don't realize the depths of her fantastical abilities.

Beat for beat, nearly scene for scene, "Mary Poppins Returns" recreates the original film, which is simultaneously comforting and a little disappointing. You'll know how the narrative of "Mary Poppins Returns" will develop, but for younger children who aren't familiar with the original, this will be exciting and fun, especially the animated sequence with the variety of animals attending a sort of circus cabaret. And although some songs are catchier than others ("Can You Imagine That?", accompanied by an underwater sequence where the Banks children swim with dolphins; the chorus of "Trip a Little Light Fantastic," led by Miranda, will be stuck in your head for days), they don't reach immediate classic status like "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

As Mary Poppins, Blunt hews closer to the original in the books by P. L. Travers, who was stricter, more imperious, and a little more vain than Andrews's version of the character. But again, your enjoyment of "Mary Poppins Returns" is all about perspective: For first-time viewers, especially young ones, the movie's messages about embracing your inner child and seeing the world through curious eyes will be refreshing and fun. For older viewers, the movie may seem a little too similar to the original -- but with Blunt's pitch-perfect performance, Dawson's adorableness, and Miranda's exuberance, you'll still find things to enjoy.

 Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.  

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