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It's been 54 years since Mary Poppins was last seen on the big screen, and yet, while over half a century is about five times longer than most franchises wait to reboot themselves, Mary Poppins Returns isn't a remake or a reimagining, but a direct sequel to the events of the original Oscar-winning movie. While we've probably all seen Mary Poppins at least once in our lives, if you haven't seen it recently, then you may not actually remember everything that happens.
It's also true that, to be honest, a lot that does happen in Mary Poppins isn't strictly important. The adventures that Mary Poppins takes the children in the original film on don't necessarily have a direct impact on the greater plot. They're mostly just excuses for beautiful musical numbers. So then, what's actually important to remember? There are a few details that are worth keeping in mind before you jump into Mary Poppins Returns. Let's run through them:
The Mystery of Mary Poppins
There are a lot of questions about Mary Poppins in the original film that it never bothers to answer, and I certainly hope the sequel doesn't try. The mystery of Mary, who she is and where she comes from, why she does the things she does, is part of her charm. There is no answer that is greater than our own imaginations.
What we do know about Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) is that she arrives when needed, and departs once she has completed her task. She appears to have a clear understanding from the beginning exactly what she'll need to do. She clearly has control of magic and while she's a mystery to most, she does have friends. Jack-of-all-trades Burt (Dick Van Dyke) has clearly met her before when we meet her in the original film. How much he really knows is unclear.
Jane and Michael Banks
Jane and Michael Banks of 17 Cherry Tree Lane are the children in need of a nanny in the first film. Mary Poppins arrives on their doorstep to take the job. From there we witness Mary Poppins and the children going on numerous adventures involving everything from floating on the ceiling to jumping inside a chalk drawing.
The Banks children grow quite attached to Mary in their short time together. One can only imagine the sort of influence somebody like Mary Poppins has had on their lives. The trailer for Mary Poppins Returns certainly shows them in shock at seeing her again. We know that Michael Banks will have children of his own that need looking after in Mary Poppins Returns. However, the new movie likely won't really be about them, as the first movie wasn't really about Jane and Michael.
Saving Mr. Banks
The real story of Mary Poppins is about Mary using her magic as a means to help Jane and Michael reconnect with their father. Mr. Banks is an executive at a bank, and one who finds his life in perfect order when the movie begins. Of course, he has no relationship with his own children to speak of, so perhaps his life isn't as well ordered as he thinks it is. Certainly, his priorities are skewed.
By the end of Mary Poppins, this oversight has been remedied. The sequel will see Mr. Banks' children grown-up, one with children of his own. A look at this family dynamic will probably give us a good gauge of just how well the lessons Mary Poppins taught actually took. Is Michael Banks a rigid and career-obsessed father, as his dad used to be, or is he a loving and caring dad, as his father seemed to have become?
Fidelity Fiduciary Bank
An important portion of the original Mary Poppins story takes place around Mr. Banks' place of work, Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. Based on the plot synopsis that's been released regarding Mary Poppins Returns, we know that the bank will play an important role once again. The last time around, Michael Banks accidentally started a run on the bank that resulted in his father losing his job. Michael wanted to spend his money on food to feed the birds, the bankers wanted to invest the coins.
This time around, we don't know specifically how the bank will factor in, but look for the Banks' family's association with the bank to be important. Besides at least one character that we know is in the movie is directly tied to the bank.
In the original Mary Poppins, we're introduced to Mr. Dawes Sr. and his son, Mr. Dawes Jr. Mr. Dawes Senior is the chairman of the bank where Jane and Michael's father works. and Mr. Dawes Jr., who is quite old despite his name, is on that board as well. While Mr. Banks is fired from his position, he inadvertently makes a new one available to himself by telling Mr. Dawes Sr. a joke so funny that the old man dies laughing. It's not quite as awful as it sounds. Still pretty dark though.
A couple of decades later, Mr. Dawes Jr. is now in charge of the bank in the position that his father used to have. Also like his father, Mr. Dawes Jr. will be played in Mary Poppins Returns by the great Dick Van Dyke. Since Mr. Dawes Jr. was the one that offered Jane and Michael's father his job back, there's a good chance he has a soft spot for the family that could be important in the sequel.
As characters go, Admiral Boom isn't exactly the most important, but we've seen in the trailers that the old sailor is somehow still kicking, so I'd be doing him a disservice if he didn't get a mention. The admiral lives next door to 17 Cherry Tree Lane. The roof of his home is made to look like one of the old sailing ships he previously served on, and he fires a cannon to mark the hour, every hour.
Keeping all the furnishings from falling over is a recurring gag in the original Mary Poppins and if Admiral Boom is still around, then it would seem like the joke will continue on in the sequel.
We'll find out for sure when Mary Poppins Returns to theaters on Wednesday, December 19.