Synopsis: Mary Poppins returns to the Banks’ family to nanny for a new generation of Banks children with her signature blend of care and whimsy.
London 1910 *** One sooty afternoon an unearthly creature descends from the clouds via a charmed umbrella. The animate being has the shape of a comely young woman, conservatively dressed. Upon landing, this conscious thing cuts an imperious figure complete with ramrod straight posture and nose-in-the-air. Most notable are the human impostor’s fully swiveling ankles, resulting in the shodden “feet” being turned out at a ghastly angle.
From a second story residence window, two primary school-aged siblings watch the supernatural spectacle unfold in wide-eyed horror. “Is she a witch?” the young lad gasps to his sister. Petrified, she can neither answer, nor look away.
London 1935*** The two aforementioned children, Jane and Michael Banks are now grown. Jane, like her mother before her, is a political activist. Perhaps an anarchist. Her residence seems unfixed. Perhaps she varies her sleeping place in order to stay one step ahead of the authorities. Michael lives in the family home at 17 Cherry Tree Lane with his three young children, Annabel, John and Georgie. Sadly, the family has lost Mrs. Banks. She passed in the preceding year. Perhaps a victim of London’s infamous choking smog. Riven by grief and facing penury, the family is in a vulnerable state. And who should come floating down from its Wiccan Kin in a stormy sky to take charge once again? The very same creature sighted decades ago who inserted herself into the Banks family as a nanny. Say its name if you dare: Mary Poppins.
Hapless Michael Banks and tireless firebrand Jane are gobsmacked when the little children return from the park with the preternaturally ageless sorceress. She declares that she will care for this latest generation of Bankses. While the ineffectual grown Banks children rummage around the house in search of a bank certificate that will save them from imminent foreclosure on their domicile, Mary Poppins casts her spell over the feral children. Cold-blooded and mesmerizing as a pythoness, Poppins immediately begins beguiling her young charges. Repelled by both the park dirt smudged across their skin and their human scent, she draws a bath for the children. She sings of the pleasures of a watery adventure (or grave), tossing various beach frippery into the deepening waters. Defenseless, the Banks youths gape and grin. A sense of dread overcame me: My God, she’s going to perform a ritual drowning. Much to my relief, the damnable Poppins merely struck the children with fantastical hallucinations of cavorting beneath the ocean waves.
One can only guess at the effects of her repeated mind bending. Well… consider the elder Banks… they don’t know which end is up! I wondered if perhaps Poppins was not a she-devil, but merely a weirdo who gets her kicks drugging children’s tea with some sort of hallucinogen. But witchcraft better explains her fixed age and freedom from gravity.
When Poppins isn’t actively bewitching the children, she drags them hither and yon through the city to visit her sketchy friends. Ah, that brings me to one of her human familiars, Jack, a lamplighter at her beck and call. Jack, a former street urchin, tells the children he has known Poppins since his wretched youth.
One day, while Michael is invariably mangling the discharge of his clerk duties at the bank and Jane is presumably planning a bombing of Parliament, Annabel, John and Georgie accompany Poppins and Jack into a fantastical dance hall- saloon. Jack and the nanny take the stage where she slinks around like a dominatrix, delivering double entendre riddles. The beastly audience jeers and hoots. Yes, Poppins, great outing for CHILDREN.
On and on the madness goes, jackknifing between immersion in mind-blowing phantasmagoria and Poppins’ relentless gaslighting of the children. She insists – just as she did with their father and aunt– that the youngsters are lying about the misadventures that she foists upon them. Maybe if Jane or Michael weren’t suffering from their own entrenched Poppins-induced PTSD, they could free the little Banks’ from her sinister charms.
In any event, the question posed by Master Michael Banks in 1910 is answered: Yes, Mary Poppins is a witch.
Now, run, children, run!
MovieLoon.Blog Movie Overview:
Cut to the Chase: Emily Blunt is impeccable as Mary Poppins. Lin-Manuel Miranda, as Jack, delivers on sprightly charm. (The brilliant composer must have felt queasy singing the mediocre tunes.) Ben Whishaw’s sensitive performance as Michael Banks is a standout. Engaging performances, sufficiently good script; but the songs are forgettable and keep the musical from shining.
Comedy Highlight: Colin Firth as a baddie banker.