Mary Poppins Returns wins praise from critics but plot leaves some divided

The film is a sequel to the 1964 original.

Mary Poppins Returns has made a positive impression on most critics – with Emily Blunt winning praise for her portrayal of the enigmatic nanny.

The film – a sequel to the 1964 beloved original – sees Blunt replacing Julie Andrews in the role of the practically perfect nanny as she tries to help Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) after the death of his wife.

Directed by Rob Marshall, Mary Poppins Returns also stars Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emily Mortimer, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Pixie Davies, Angela Lansbury and David Warner.

Mary Poppins Returns European Premiere – London
The cast of Mary Poppins Returns at the film’s European premiere in London (Ian West/PA)

Dick Van Dyke returns from the original film to play a bank chairman. The highly anticipated film was perhaps always going to find it difficult to step out of the revered original’s shadow but most critics agree Mary Poppins Returns provides an entertaining follow-up.

The Daily Telegraph’s reviewer was blown away, handing the film a perfect five-star score.

Robbie Collin wrote it is “practically perfect in every way”, and that “it comes to life thanks to its own consummate artistry and rafter-rattling gusto – watching it feels like reliving a classic, rather than merely retreading it”.

Writing for the BBC, Nicholas Barber gave the film four stars.

He said: “A lively, colourful and big-hearted musical, it may lack a spark of originality, but it’s better than most children’s films. It’s just not as good as the children’s film it is trying so hard to be.”

Mary Poppins Returns European Premiere – London
Emily Blunt has won praise from critics for her starring role in Mary Poppins Returns (Ian West/PA)

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw was slightly less glowing in his review, handing Blunt’s film three stars.

He wrote: “Diehard fans of the first film will very probably love this sequel, for the undoubted detail and fervour with which it reproduces the template, though with a little more of a Broadway feel than it had in 1964. I admire it for its craftsmanship and technique, like a machine for creating nostalgia.”

US outlet Entertainment Weekly was full of praise for Blunt, noting her “purely expialidocious charm”.

But reviewer Leah Greenblatt criticised the plot, and said: “The narrative feels spindly and slightly adrift, a parasol in the wind.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney praised the sequel and said it “delivers both nostalgia and novelty”.

He also describes Blunt as a “worthy successor” to Andrews, noting the “unmistakable warmth” she brings to the role.

The Press Association’s film critic Damon Smith was also impressed, handing Mary Poppins Returns 8.5/10.

He lauded Blunt for making “this iteration of the role her own with effortless efficiency” though conceding “plot threads are admittedly gossamer thin and noticeably frayed in places”.

Not all reviewers were fans of the film, however. 

In the Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang described it as both “hyperactive and paralysed”.

He said: “As it is, so much obvious care has been taken to reproduce and update the charms of the Robert Stevenson-directed original — to deliver an old-fashioned yet newfangled burst of family-friendly uplift — that Mary Poppins Returns winds up feeling both hyperactive and paralysed.

“It sits there flailing on the screen, bright, gaudy and mirthless, tossing off strained bits of comic business and all but strangling itself with its own good cheer.”

Mary Poppins Returns is released in UK cinemas on December 21.

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