Genre: Musical, Family, Fantasy
Director: Rob Marshall
The first thing one is likely to remember of the 1964 classic ‘Mary Poppins’ are the songs, especially ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ and the wonderfully made-up ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. Though set in 1935, the sequel comes 54 years later. Michael Banks (Ben Winshaw), a recently widowed dad of three – Annabel, John and Georgie – and a failed artist, unsuccessfully tries to make ends meet with a part-time job at a bank, whose President William Wilkins (Colin Firth) has issued Michael an ultimatum to pay up his loan in full within five days or risk losing his house. With a briefcase and an umbrella as a parachute, saviour Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) descends from the skies.
Disney’s procrastination over milking a popular film of the Golden Age (winning 5 of its 13 Academy nominations) seems inexplicable, though Blunt slips into Julie Andrew’s shoes effortlessly. Jack, the lamplighter, is played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, essaying the chimney sweep’s role by Dick Van Dyke in the 1964 version. The latter, now a sprightly 93, earns a song-and-dance cameo.
Of the ten songs three stand out – ‘A Cover is Not the Book’, ‘Turning Turtle’ by Meryl Streep, playing Poppins’ East-European cousin Topsy, and the best – ‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’, with its big band sounds a perfect foil for the outstanding choreography. Sandy Powell’s costume design is noteworthy, blending delicately with the 1930s London production design by John Myhre. Having directed ‘Chicago’, director Rob Marshall is no stranger to musicals. David Magee’s (The Life of Pi) screenplay is based on Pamela Travers’ book series, which began in 1934. Similarities to the prequel are obvious – Chimney sweeps are now lamplighters while the song on kites are replaced by one on balloons, Angela Lansbury playing the balloon lady in a cameo. An alternate title to Mary Poppins could well have been ‘Flights of Fancy’.