Disney’s latest reboot of the beloved classic Mary Poppins, brims with positive themes that can be seen in the lives of the characters and the songs they sing. Those themes include hope, perseverance, love, encouragement, innocence, imagination and believing in the impossible.
With an all-star cast that includes Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr., Meryl Streep as Topsy, Angela Lansbury as Balloon Lady, Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks and Colin Firth as William Weatherall Wilkins, Mary Poppins Returns is a must-see for families this Christmas.
Quaint, quiet Cherry Tree Lane isn’t what it once was. The familiar spark of magic has left the air, and the Great Depression has settled over London like a thick fog.
Young Michael Banks and his sister, Jane, aren’t so young anymore. A former painter, Mr. Banks has recently traded in his brushes for a more “adult” job: working part time at the local bank. Michael’s wife, Mrs. Banks, has passed away, leaving behind a loving husband, three beautiful children (John, Anabel and Georgie), Jane, and house helper Ellen.
Everyone and everything feels Mrs. Banks’ absence. You see, life was simply lighter when Mrs. Banks was alive. Things were simpler. But times have changed—not for the better. And a loan that Michael Banks took out to pay for his family’s expenses is long overdue, putting even more pressure on the grieving family.
And so the loan sharks arrive at Cherry Tree Lane to collect the entire sum, or to repossess the Banks’ family home. They’re unyielding in their demands, unwilling to give the new widower a break. Mr. Banks has four days, until Friday at midnight, to come up with the money.
It’s an impossible task. Unless, of course, the Banks family can remember where that little paper is. You know, the one with all the information about their shares at the bank. But it’s not in the study, or in the attic or in the—
Wait—what’s that? In the air? Right there! Don’t you see it?
Why, it’s Mary Poppins of course! She’s come to help the Banks family once again. And maybe, just maybe, she can remind them, in her practically perfect way, that nothing is ever completely lost.
Mary Poppins and a character named Jack (a lamplighter friend of Mary’s) teach the children (who, in turn, teach the adults around them) to hold onto their hopes and dreams, even in dimmest of situations. The children also learn that even though their mother is gone, they can cherish her memory in their hearts. They begin to understand the importance of reclaiming the childhood innocence that has been taken from them in the wake of their mothers’ death. And the children’s faith is renewed as they dream of a brighter tomorrow. In the process, they learn that just because something doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t mean it can’t be true.
Additionally, characters learn a number of other redemptive lessons. They learn how to look for the positive side of every difficult situation (instead of embracing the gloom), to “trip a little light fantastic,” to dance in joy when things are foggy, to value what’s inside of oneself and to focus on the future more than the past. They’re also encouraged not to judge a book by its cover.
Mr. Banks is, understandably, overwhelmed by his wife’s tragic passing. He previously vowed to her that he would press on and raise their three children well, but sometimes the stress of being a single father causes him to lash out in frustration (although he almost always apologizes afterward). Mr. Banks is generally good-natured. He loves his children and tells them so, and he encourages them when he can. Finally, he teaches them to be frugal, kind and courteous. The children, for their part, work diligently to help their father and encourage him in his moments of weakness.
Family, friends and neighbors rally around the Banks family in their most desperate moments, lending a helping hand and reassuring family members that they will never be alone.
As grown-ups we forget. We forget to live. To laugh. To have fun. We’re often so caught up in the daily hustle and bustle that life’s dreams and joys fall to the wayside. That’s one reason we need children—because they teach us, with their little bodies and huge hearts, what it means to live life to the fullest.
And that’s also why we need Mary Poppins. Because Mary’s new story teaches us, as she did nearly 60 years ago, that life is what you fill it with. Tragedy will hit, and life will take some unexpected turns, but nothing is ever completely lost. There is always more, if only we will but open our eyes to recognize the blessings all around us.
So perhaps today is the day that we put away our “adult” distractions, whatever they may be, and take some time to sit with the little ones who are closest to our hearts. Maybe today we relearn that life is more than stuff. Maybe today we recall that life is about the people who love us well.
Those are the kinds of lessons this delightful reboot reinforces. Mary Poppins Returns reminds us that though circumstances may bring us down, together “there is nowhere to go but up.”