Mary Poppins Returns
It took more than half a century to continue the story 25 years later. That’s the magic of Disney: even the math doesn’t add up.
I chose the title as my way of paying homage to Cockney rhyming slang:
cherry tree = memory.
All of us know that we cannot go back to the past, but for those of us that were children or in our early teens when the original came out, this is as close as it gets.
Saving Mr. Banks, Again
The heart of the story is the Banks children’s attempts to save their father from disaster, just like in the original. Unfortunately, as most children discover, their efforts cannot stave off the inevitable. As this movie was to be representative of a troubling time, financially, the drama revolves around saving the family home at 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
Michael Banks works as a teller at the same bank his father did. The same family owns that bank, although a nephew (with the initials WWW) has taken over as Chairman of the Board. Because Michael lost his wife one year before, he has not been able to keep the household finances like she did, and has become late in paying on a large loan he borrowed from the bank. The bank’s lawyers show up at the beginning of the movie with a repossession notice. They have five days to pay the whole loan back, or the house will be repossessed. (This echoes a reality for families in America during the mid-1930’s.)
One of the children finds the old kite their father flew as a child. He attempts to fly it by himself, but has to be rescued by Jack, a lamplighter. While reeling it in, they discover that Mary Poppins is holding the tail of the kite.
As with the first movie, the children (this time three of them) get to experience some very wonder filled adventures. Essentially, that is the whole purpose of the story: to take our collective minds off the crisis at hand by keeping us entertained.
The first adventure takes place in the family bathtub! Lots of underwater fun ensues.
The second is prompted by the ‘priceless’ family heirloom (a china bowl) being chipped by a struggle between the children. The children experience a veritable rollercoaster carriage ride to a Music Hall, where Mary and Jack perform a couple of songs (which had ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ moments). Then the youngest child is kidnapped by the wolf and his two henchmen, who sling him in the back of a truck with their nursery furniture. As anyone familiar with Disney movies knows, there has to be a scary sequence in the story: this one was it.
The elder Banks children rescue him, but then their vehicle goes to the end of the bowl and they end up in their beds frightened and thrashing about, as if waking from a nightmare. Mary sings them a sad lullaby about memories (and especially of their mother) and they fall asleep.
The next day, Mary, Jack and the Banks children go to visit Mary’s cousin, Topsy, who fixes things, big and small. Except for every second Wednesday when her world turns upside down. Jack makes a joke about her being “Topsy-Turvy”.
Back to the Bank
The children think that they can persuade the Chairman of the bank to give their father an extension on the repossession order, since he’s been looking for a Shares Certificate to prevent the bank’s action. The youngest child ‘recognizes’ the Chairman as the wolf in his kidnapping, so he calls him out. The children then have to escape quickly. Mary goes with them, but lets them lead the way. Of course, they get lost in a fog.
By the time they get home. their father was distraught. He was also angry. Then he despaired at their situation and his inability to deal with it. The children then repeated what they’d learned from Mary Poppins in that sad lullaby from the previous night. Then it was hugs all ’round.
In the best traditions of meeting a deadline, they cheated a bit, but the Admiral next door thought that a miracle had happened, time-wise. Also, I won’t tell you the ending except to say that it involved that same kite, yet again.
Emily Blunt is more than ‘practically perfect in every way’. She has quiet strength, with sensitivity. Her Mary Poppins has redefined what it means to be the best at what you can do. Her eyes say it all.
So, more than 50 years later, I’ve found my childhood again, but through adult eyes. Amazing.