"That was so quick, we thought there must be a catch, because there's nothing worse than coming THIS close to making a film you've been trying to make. "-Aussie writer Leigh Whannell on getting the greenlight for Saw
Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny (Emily Blunt) returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael's children through a difficult time in their lives.
Review by Louise Keller: It's magical! Even the impossible is possible is the theme of this colourful, uplifting sequel that like its central character, is almost perfect in every way. To come close to matching the original 1994 Oscar winning film is a near impossible feat and Rob Marshall's light-as-a-feather inventive film is delightful.
The stepping stones of the story are perfectly laid on a pathway where fantasy and reality happily blend on a rich canvas of colour and imagination. You can hum along with Marc Shaiman's songs; you can tap your toes. But more than that, the songs all have a point: a subtle message to inspire. How to deal with loss; having a fresh perspective; never losing faith and keeping in touch with the child within. All over the rooftops of London.
Speaking of the rooftops, there is a great sense of London - in the days 'of the great slump', with its distinctive buildings, cobbled streets and Big Ben's imposing presence. Superb production design complements Dion Beebe's beautiful cinematography that melds seamlessly into animation and live action. It might be 'just a bath', but diving into the soapy bubbles is the starting point for an underwater fantasy with dolphins, a pirate ship and treasure. The fantastic journey into the Royal Doulton Music Hal, complete with ostrich showgirls who do the splits, is an explosion of colour and creativity. It is filled with lovely touches: like walking up a staircase of books that magically appear as required.
Emily Blunt is suitably Julie Andrews-esque, while retaining her own personality. She brings a fine balance of the pragmatic with a touch of wistfulness as the nanny with the fix-it touch, who magically appears in the sky on a kite. Not an easy feat to carry off and Blunt is simply lovely. She sings well, too. The kite in question is key in the story - and like many other elements, is tied in to the storyline from the original.
Casting is perfect: Ben Whishaw shines as the grown up Michael Banks, who is struggling to not only cope with the loss of his beloved wife, but to save the family home from being repossessed. But it is songwriter, actor and Grammy winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is the biggest surprise. In the equivalent of the Dick Van Dyke role, Miranda plays a lamplighter, who is an old friend of Mary Poppins. Additionally, he provides the implied love interest for Emily Mortimer's role (as sister to Whishaw). Colin Firth is the villainous banker; Meryl Streep is the titan-haired Tatiana Topsy; Julie Walters is the frazzled housekeeper and Angela Lansbury plays the wise woman who reminds us to allow our hearts to take flight. Watch for 93 year old Van Dyke, who shows us how it is done with a tap dance atop a desk.
It's a joyous, uplifting film that soars under the London sky and inspires a whole new generation to the Mary Poppins magic. If you're looking for a film that personifies happiness, this is it!