A Mary Poppins sequel after all these years? It felt a little risky – and also pretty presumptuous, to be honest. But cor blimey, as Dick Van Dyke would have said, the end result is an absolute delight from first to last, a gorgeous visual feast packed full of wit and flair and colour and imagination. In the last week of the year, we’ve probably got the best (well, equal best) film of the year. Not since The Greatest Showman and La La Land, the year before, have we had a film that you just don’t want to end.
Emily Blunt is the “practically perfect” nanny. Except she is actually perfect, a beautiful performance with that steely superiority never quite managing to mask her heart of gold, the fourth emergency service for that poor Banks family who once again, a generation on, are in trouble.
Ben Whishaw is Michael Banks, grown up, dad to three and a widower who has lost his way in all his grief. Emily Mortimer is his grown-up sister Jane, a woman with a conscience and a penchant for lamp-lighters.
Between them they are facing the loss of their family home – the moment Mary Poppins re-enters their lives, a dim distant memory which they had dismissed as fantasy from first time round.
Making sure our heartstrings are truly tugged are the kiddies, supremely well played by Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson. Lighting those lamps and adding plenty of charm is Lin-Manuel Miranda, a chap intent on literally illuminating everyone’s lives.
With Colin Firth excellent as the villain of the piece, the result is utterly magical.
Much fuss has been made of the supposedly-forgettable songs, and maybe one or two are, but in their context, there isn’t a duff one amongst them – and several are outstanding, not least the two touching on grief as Michael laments his late wife and as Mary tells the children the best way to remember her. Very poignant.
But maybe it’s the bath scene which will last longest in memory... that and the assault on Big Ben! The Dick Van Dyke cameo is worth waiting for, and the closing sequence is simply sublime. This is an absolutely beautiful film.