Look, up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nah, it’s just Mary Poppins flying in on her umbrella again, with an old-school, unabashedly cheery new adventure.
P.L. Travers’ practically perfect nanny is back in the perfectly fine sequel “Mary Poppins Returns” (★★★ out of four; rated PG; in theaters nationwide Dec. 19), with Emily Blunt carrying the magic carpet bag and living up to the high bar Julie Andrews set in 1964’s original “Poppins.” While narratively no match for the classic Disney musical, the new “Mary” adds new songs and multitalented charisma machine Lin-Manuel Miranda to the mix for one undoubtedly comforting nostalgia-fest.
Set in 1930s Depression-era London, a couple of decades after Mary first arrived on Cherry Tree Lane to care for the Banks children, “Returns” catches up with now-adult siblings Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer). An artist with a part-time job at his father’s old employer Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, Michael has fallen behind on house payments after his wife’s death. And his shady boss William Wilkins (a weaselly Colin Firth) is going to repossess the family manor in five days unless Michael can find his dad’s lost bank shares.
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Where there’s domestic chaos, there’s Mary Poppins. Greeted by good-hearted lamplighter Jack (Miranda), Mary finds that Michael’s children – Annabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and little Georgie (Joel Dawson) – have had to grow up fast after the loss of their mother. The nanny uses everything in her arsenal (including dolphins in the bathtub) to teach them the wonders of nonsense, and she comes loaded with bon mots like “Everything is possible, even the impossible.”