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Mary Poppins Returns

I better start out by saying that I've never liked the original Mary Poppins movie. As a kid, as an adult showing it to my kids, it just never connected with me. Which makes it all the more surprising how much I enjoyed last year's sequel, MARY POPPINS RETURNS.

There are plenty of reasons it's so good.

Emily Blunt is practically perfect in every way as Mary, ramping up the oddities of the character while teaching some valued lessons. It doesn't hurt that Blunt sings and dances incredibly well.

Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) is perhaps the strangest casting but I think he pulls it off really well, bringing all that "Hamilton" and "In The Heights" cred and a modern sensibility to his role as Jack, chimney sweep and lamp lighter of London.

The children of the first film are back as grown ups, with Ben Whishaw (Q in Skyfall) as the grown up Michael Banks and Emily Mortimer (Match Point) as Jane. Michael's a widower with three children of his own, financial troubles looming and very much in need of his new nanny sweeping in on her umbrella.

Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) nails it, delivering a "Chicago" level musical that perfectly treads the line between classic Disney musical and modern choreography, splashed with $130 million worth of special effects, sets and atmosphere.

There's even a hand-drawn animation sequence, a rarity that our real-life characters plop down into in tribute to the 54 year old original film.

Mark Shaiman (Hairspray, South Park) does the near impossible and delivers a lineup of songs worthy of the Sherman Brothers original Supercalafragilisticexpealadocious score.

Colin Firth is a great villain, Meryl Streep outstays her welcome as Marys cousin in the film's one misstep, but Dick Van Dyke more than recovers for that in an incredible appearance at the conclusion that shows he's as terrific at 93 as he was in the 1964 original. At least this time he's dropped that horrible Cockney accent....he's fantastic.

Loaded with family movie magic, MARY POPPINS RETURNS is a terrific musical that really surprised me.

A rare sequel that, for me, surpasses the original in every way (that's blasphemy for purists I am sure), MARY POPPINS RETURNS gets an A.

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