Did Disney take a risk by reigniting 'Mary Poppins' 54 years later in an official sequel with a new leading lady? Yes. Did that risk pay off? Absolutely... In a most delightful way.
What a gorgeous, charming, endearing film.
Emily Blunt, who is understandably already being acknowledged for her work in this role, is simply just brilliant. She hits all the firm but friendly notes Julie Andrews so famously did back in 1964, adding her own touch but not in too much of a distracting fashion. Her delivery and the way she carries herself... It's the kind of performance that just warms you up, which is what Mary Poppins should do.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is lovable and smiley as Jack the lamplighter, his soaring and strong vocals are stunning on tracks such as 'Underneath The Lovely London Sky'... But his rapping during 'A Cover Is Not The Book' is a little too similar (perhaps on purpose) to that heard in his musical 'Hamilton'.
'Where The Lost Things Go' is a particularly poignant moment in the film; with lyrics that are both literally and metaphorically about losing a person or a thing but being content in knowing that they always end up somewhere. It's a beautiful composition and Emily performs it stunningly.
Other tracks in the film are huge and completely camp such as 'Trip A Little Light Fantastic' and Meryl Streep's singular song 'Turning Turtle'.
There are a few little Easter eggs here and there too, like a very special, unexpected cameo and of course an appearance from Dick Van Dyke who is seemingly just as full of energy as he was playing Bert in the original film.
Sometimes a sequel's plot can feel rushed and as though it was secondary to the idea of a sequel in general, but not here. This feels like a story that was well thought-out from day one, and it makes sense. It's not jarring and unfamiliar; there are enough reminders that it's a direct sequel but it's not an overload of purposeful nostalgia. It stands on its own two feet... This is a great achievement.
The 2D animation is a wonderful example of harking back to the days of the original film and is bright, colourful and a joy to witness on a cinema screen.
If you thought you'd need a spoonful of sugar to bear the sequel to a film over 50 years old, never fear. Emily Blunt is practically perfect, and 'Mary Poppins Returns' really is marvellous.