I must have been about five years old when I was taken to see Mary Poppins at the cinema in Ilford Essex (only the one screen in those days).

To me the whole film was magical and I too wanted a nanny like Mary Poppins. Not so much to be looking after me and my three brothers but for us to be whisked away to strange and unusual places. Where we could have exciting adventures and maybe dance with a penguin or two.

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The Banks children

Alas, Mary never landed on our doorstep. So I had to make do with Saturday mornings at the Ilford Baths for my enjoyment. Fortunately, the movie is usually repeated at Easter and Christmas. Plus I bought a copy for our own kids to watch on VHS. 

My expectations of a sequel being half as good as the original weren’t that strong but director Rob Marshall (Chicago 2002, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011 and Into the Woods 2011) has done a fantastic job of keeping faithful to the original by giving it that feel of whimsy and quirkiness that made whole families fall in love with it for just over five decades!

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Mary, the Banks children and Jack

Emily Blunt (A local girl from Wandsworth borough) is inspired casting as Mary and looking at her performance on the screen you can't help thinking that she was born to play this role.

She has that clipped English accent, accentuating and over-pronouncing every syllable. (spit spot!).

The film picks up a few decades later with the two Banks children Michael (Ben Wishaw, the voice of Paddington Bear) and his sister Jane (Emily Watson, Hugo 2011). Michael is now a widower, looking after his three children Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and young George (Joel Dawson) with the help of Jane.

Michael and the children have inherited their parents' home in Cherry Tree Lane and are also being looked after by their housemaid Ellen (Julie Waters, pretty much mirroring her role in the Paddington movies.)

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All is not well in the Banks home as Michael has gone into debt and the lawyers are soon at their door. Can anybody help the Banks family to keep their dwelling? Hmmmm!

Yes! Good old “Meery Popens” is here to lend a hand.

Mary looks as young as ever but Bert (played by Dick van Dyke in the 1964 version) is off travelling the world as we are told by his close prodigy Jack, who is a leerie rather than a chimney sweep. The leeries ride around London Town on their bicycles, lighting the lampposts at night and dousing them in the mornings. Jack (played by song and dance man Lin-Manuel Miranda who won two Tony awards for his work on the Broadway show Hamilton and In the Heights) has the same relationship that Bert had with Mary and joins his friend and the Banks children on their exploits.

Having such a talent as Lin-Manuel there is a huge opportunity for some great dance routines and there is a terrific scene with Jack’s fellow leeries that can equall the famous Step in Time chimney sweep dance number. In fact all the dance numbers are brilliant and put you in mind of such greats as Oliver, My Fair Lady and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Also in these times of CGI animation, it was nice to see the ‘Jolly Holiday’ animation style of drawing with the farmyard animals and the return of the dancing penguins. A nice touch going back to the original look.

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Jack and the fellow leeries

The Banks household has not changed much over the years. We are also introduced to some familiar characters such as the eccentric Admiral Boom (David Warner) perched on the top of the house next door to the Banks, flying the flag up the mast and barking orders to his trusty ward Binnacle (Jim Norton from Father Ted) to fire the cannon at the top of the hour as is was done in the 1964 version.

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Nasty Mr Wilkins and the grown-up Jane and Michael

There is also a great musical turn from Meryl Streep as Mary’s strange cousin twice removed called Topsy. Colin Firth appears as the bad guy William Weatherall Wilkins, chairman of the bank, who is only lacking a curly moustache to twirl!

Writer David Magee (Finding Neverland and Life of Pi) who wrote the screenplay has cleverly joined up the two movies with some clever plot turns.

The London skyline has never looked lovelier and St Paul's Cathederal makes a stunning backdrop for another dance routine.

But the best is yet to come with a couple of surprises. The film is an absolute delight and is extremely nostalgic. Watch out for that cinema dust that can catch you in the eyes and make them water…stupid dust!

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A good old Cockney song & dance number

Going back to Emily Blunt as our Mary Poppins, I predict Oscar nominations. Blunt carries the picture and will surprise audiences with her fantastic singing and dancing skills. Who knew? 

This film has pathos, laughter and adventure, What more could you want for a Christmas holiday treat?

5 out of 5 for taking me back to my youth.

I can’t believe I managed to get through this review without using the word ‘Super’…Arr! Damn it!