Obviously this requires deep historical analysis 😉 . Jane Banks is now a trade unionist, and runs a soup kitchen. And wears trousers. And acquires a working-class toyboy. Go Jane! Michael Banks is one of many people at risk of having his home repossessed due to the effects of the Depression. Oh all right, all right, I just want an excuse to talk about Mary Poppins Returns. It was never going to be as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and practically perfect in every way as the original, and it’s a bit unfair of critics to compare the soundtrack to songs which have been around for over half a century and which everyone knows and loves, but it was still pretty good.
Sadly, I have never acquired the ability to make things tidy themselves up and put themselves away just by clicking my fingers. But Mary Poppins has taught us all that a laugh and a song help the job along, and that we should prioritise spending time with people who are important to us over work. That’s important. Then there was that GCSE history lesson when the teacher started talking about suffragettes – and my school was absolutely obsessed with suffragettes, because the Pankhurst sisters all went there (Christabel hated the place, but the teachers never told us that) – and someone piped up that they knew about suffragettes because of Mary Poppins. “Mary Poppins was a suffragette?” asked the teacher in bemusement. “No – Mrs Banks was,” this girl explained helpfully. And the class started singing the Sister Suffragette song. See – it’s proper historical stuff! Very educational 😉 .
Quite seriously, whereas the original film was set in what’s become mythologised as the pre Great War Edwardian summer when it was Grand To Be An Englishman in 1910, the mood in Mary Poppins Returns is very different. This is the Depression. Jane is running a soup kitchen, and organising meetings in support of workers’ rights. Michael, a widower with three children, has borrowed money from the Dawes et al Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, can’t repay it, and is at risk of having the house repossessed. Like a lot of upper-middle-class fictional characters in books set during the inter-war years, with the very honourable exception of Madge Bettany in The School at the Chalet, it doesn’t seem to occur to him to try to reduce his living expenses, and he seems rather put out at having had to get a job; but, hey, we wouldn’t really want him to lose the house on Cherry Tree Lane. Mr and Mrs Banks have presumably passed on, but Ellen, now played by Julie Walters, is still around, as are a lot of the neighbours. And Michael’s three kids are incredibly cute – especially the youngest boy, who is absolutely gorgeous.
All is not lost! Michael and Jane have inherited some shares in the bank from their father. But they can’t find the share certificate – and the Banks entry in the share ledger has, unbeknownst to them, been destroyed by the dastardly nephew (played by Colin Firth) of Mr Dawes junior. So maybe all is lost after all. And, in the middle of this, Mary Poppins returns. Hooray!
Emily Blunt plays Mary Poppins with a really OTT posh accent, which was a bit annoying. I didn’t expect her to try to sound exactly like Julie Andrews, but it sounded a bit artificial, more like someone doing an impression of a posh accent than someone who genuinely has a posh accent! Oh well, never mind. She’s still got the talking umbrella. And the handbag which a million things seem to fit into. And there are magical adventures!
Not too many spoilers, but the adventures do very much mirror those in the original film. We haven’t got Bert, but we’ve got Jack, a lamplighter who was one apprenticed to Bert, and he and the other lamplighters have got a dance scene which is very reminiscent of Step In Time. Meryl Streep plays Mary’s cousin Topsy Turvy, who runs a mysterious shop, in this film’s answer to the scenes with Uncle Albert floating up to the ceiling. There isn’t a horse race, but there are adventures under the sea, and a brilliant music hall scene in which Mary Poppins sings a Marie Lloyd style number with a lot of innuendo … which doesn’t really sound like something Mary Poppins would do (although presumably it’s in one of the books?), but it’s a brilliant scene!
There’s no equivalent to the Bird Woman scene, but it is very much a London film. I don’t entirely get London – most Northerners don’t! – but it is always lovely to see a film paying homage to a city which someone loves, and this film does do that, just as the original does.
And, of course, it all comes right in the end. The kite – the original one, from Let’s Go Fly A Kite – is involved. And everyone floats off on balloons.
I feel as if all I’ve done is compare it to the original, legendary, Mary Poppins, film, but the directors and scriptwriters have made it inevitable that everyone will do that, by including so many scenes which mirror those in the original film. And, whilst nothing could compare with Mary Poppins, this is really very entertaining, and it’s a great film to see over the Christmas period.