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Review: 'Mary Poppins Returns' is saccharinely delightful

Posted Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 2:39 PM Central
Last updated Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 2:41 PM Central

by John Couture

If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, then what would help the digestion of a bloated cash-grab sequel to a beloved family film? The good news is that we don't have to find out with Mary Poppins Returns as it delivers a top-notch experience for the whole family without sacrificing its morals.

I won't lie, I was a wee bit concerned when I threw the film in for the review. My kids watched the original Mary Poppins and they were rather blasé about it afterward. I'm not sure why, but it just didn't conjure up the same feelings of childhood whimsy that I had when I first watched it as a child.

When I re-watched the original with the kids, I was surprised at just how well the film holds up, but again, I grew up in a time where the special effects in Mary Poppins were considered the state of the art when they debuted. Now, my son wasn't as impressed when he can turn on Transformers and see gigantic, realistic robots do battle with one another.

No amount of sugar will entice him to consider bad animatronic birds as cool.

So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I pressed play on Mary Poppins Returns, but I'm happy to report that both of my kids thoroughly enjoyed the newest version of the magical nanny.

In Mary Poppins Returns, the original Banks children have grown and are now facing their own troubles that give way to familial strife. Enter Mary Poppins who returns to her role as an interim nanny of a new generation of wayward Banks children.

I probably knew this once upon a time, but I had forgotten that P.L. Travers had written eight Mary Poppins books. So, it wasn't as though there was a lack of source material for the filmmakers to pull from. That being said, the books all revolved around Michael and Jane when they were children, while the new film advances the plot about 20 years into the future.

Don't worry, the film still takes place in Depression-era London, so the familiar look and feel of the first film are recreated nicely in Mary Poppins Returns. In fact, save for the advancements in special effects, you probably wouldn't be able to tell that over 50 years passed between the release of the two films.

Following in the iconic umbrella of Julie Andrews is no small task, but Emily Blunt is more than up for the challenge. She brings the same austere mystique to the character that Julie oh those many years ago. Both actresses are comedic geniuses and while Emily may not possess the incredibly rare vocal range of the legendary Julie Andrews, her Mary Poppins is a delight that passes the sniff test.

Mary Poppins Returns doesn't stray too far off the path of its predecessor as is evident by the inclusion of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Jack the lamplighter character. The parallels between Jack and the original film's Bert the chimney sweep jack-of-all-trades played by Dick Van Dyke are beyond obvious. Of course, it is worth noting that as Dick Van Dyke brought many comic touches to the original film and provided a nice counterpunch to Mary Poppins, so too does Lin-Manuel Miranda bring his own magical nuance to Mary Poppins Returns.

If there was one criticism that I had with the new film is that it felt like it had about double the amount of musical numbers of the original movie. With a running time in excess of two hours, it was already pushing my children's attention spans, so perhaps a more ruthless hand in the editing suite may have tightened it up a bit and not caused it to feel so long at times.

The original film will always be held higher in my heart simply for the nostalgic reasons and the amazing Julie Andrews, but Mary Poppins Returns is a wonderful family film of its own right that will have your kids humming along for days.

The 4K transfer looks absolutely amazing on the 4K UHD as you would expect. The colors are vibrant and bountiful and are noticeably more consistent than the Blu-ray version. While the audio track is only a 7.1 DTS track and not Dolby Atmos, it does present a full sound that captures the musical's songs perfectly.

With there being a lack of action, I can understand the decision by Disney not to include a Dolby Atmos track, but this trend is rather upsetting, especially with Captain Marvel and Avengers: End Game in the wings. These films will be disappointing without a Dolby Atmos audio track and we can only hope that Disney has plans to offer this superior version when these action-packed films hit 4K UHD later this year.

Can we talk about the special features? If it's one area that Disney has taken a clear lead over its rivals on, it is the bonus features on their packaged media offerings. There is quite literally over two hours of bonus goodies on the discs including the standard fare such as deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, and bloopers and the not so standard fare such as the retrospective feature from Dick Van Dyke about his return to Cherry Tree Lane.

All in all, Mary Poppins Returns is a wise investment that will pay off dividends well into the future. If your family enjoys spending time watching enjoyable musical entertainment, then they will find no better option for a long time. My children absolutely loved it and I'm sure yours will too.

Mary Poppins Returns is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD.