Theme: The Grand Restoration
It has been fifty-four years since Walt Disney Studios released its first film based on the P.L. Travers character, Mary Poppins. A wildly successful musical fantasy, Mary Poppins earned five Academy Awards and became an all time Disney favorite. To make a sequel worthy of such a beloved movie is not an easy feat.
Under the gifted direction of Rob Marshall, along with the acting talents of Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Poppins Returns is as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious as its predecessor.1 A truly praiseworthy sequel which is sure to capture the hearts and imaginations of an entirely new generation of Mary Poppins fans.
The movie opens with Jack the lamplighter singing a song while he extinguishes the gas lights as morning dawns in London. He is the narrator of the story and his song is an invitation to all who live Underneath the Lovely London Sky ... when light comes into the world... there are lots of treasures to be found ... don’t be blue ... the light shines through ... gives you a different point of view ... look up ... a new day ... a new song ... Blessings ... underneath the lovely London sky.
Jack, the one who carries the light, lives in a two-realm world: heaven (up the sky) and earth (underneath) are not far apart but connected. His invitation is to see this different point of view by looking up. For from up come blessings, hope, healing and promise. As he sings the skyline of London is seen in beautiful paintings and the camera comes to rest at London’s highest point and its famous landmark, St. Paul’s Cathedral with its large dome and cross on top. The connecting point of heaven and earth is always the cross of Jesus Christ.
The Great Slump
After the musical overture and title scene, Jack concludes his song on Cherry Tree Lane. It is the time of The Great Slump, and Admiral Boom sees storm clouds on the horizon.
At #17 the great slump is more than economic depression; the great slump is death. Michael Banks has lost his wife; and his children, John, Annabel and Georgie have lost their mother. Kate Banks’ death has brought disorder, depression, debt, and despair. At this moment two lawyers from Fidelity Fiduciary Bank appear demanding payment for a loan while tacking an eviction notice on the front door.
Michael’s sister Jane is visiting the family and together they begin a search for a bank share certificate their father had left them. Michael starts in the attic where he finds a music box with his wife’s pearls. He sings a lament to Kate entitled A Conversation. Life, love, and magic all disappeared when she died, what remains is a perpetual winter and silence. The one question which fills his days and what he most longs to know is “Kate, where’d you go?” This question haunts him as it does every person who lives on earth apart from heaven, who abides with death in perpetual winter.
Leaving the attic, Michael throws away his artwork (his true self) and his paper kite (his faith), closing the door of his heart to all he knew as a child.
Mary Poppins Returns
The Banks children are in trouble; not so much the three that lost their mother but Jane and Michael. And just as the wind/spirit took the torn pieces of their request for a nanny up to heaven years ago, it now picks up the thrown away kite and lifts it over the park where Georgie Banks grabs hold and tries to fly it. The wind intensifies and now it’s Georgie in danger of being flown by the kite. John, Annabelle, and Jack arrive in the nick of time, snatching Georgie and reeling him in and . . . Mary Poppins, kite in hand, descends from above. The audience is moved to tears.
Who is Mary Poppins? The answer to that question depends on the point of view of the one who is asking. To someone who lives in a one-realm world (earth), she is simply a fantasy figure who does magical tricks and it’s all good fun and forgotten after the movie. To someone who lives on earth under heaven with the cross connecting the two realms, she is a “ministering spirit sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation”. (Heb. 1:14, 13:2, Matthew 18:10)
Mary Poppins returns to restore the hearts of Jane and Michael Banks who have lost faith, hope and love. She does this through the three Banks children the same way she restored Jane and Michael’s parents,George and Winifred, through them. It is easier for the life of heaven to invade a child’s tender heart than the hardened hearts of adults.
The stage is now set for the magical adventures Mary Poppins will have with the three children. Each adventure as well as the song it showcases is designed to restore something the children have lost since their mother’s death. Can You Imagine That and the bathtub holiday baptizes their imagination and restores their joy in living. The Royal Doulton Music Hall takes them on an adventure into their own story and teaches them a Cover Is Not a Book, or wolves do come in sheep’s clothing and banker’s suits. The escapade to Topsy’s to get the bowl repaired turns their world upside down and they learn Turning Turtle doesn’t have to destroy you but can teach you another point of view. And Trip a Little Light Fantastic invites the children to become a “leerie”; one who lights the way for others, who tame the night and make it day, keepers of the flame.2
By far the most poignant and beautiful moment is when Mary Poppins comforts the children after a bad dream. Missing their mother so much, Mary sings to them the lullaby Where the Lost Things Go . . . nothing’s really left or lost without a trace . . . nothing’s gone forever, only out of place. There will come a time when hidden things, like spring under snow, will be shown. This is the promise of resurrection, of all things made new (Revelation 21:1-5). The children can trust their mother is always there watching them grow . . . she is not lost, she is in the place where the lost things go.
The Grand Restoration
Michael is furious with Mary Poppins and his children, much as his own father was with him years before. He scolds them saying they are about to lose everything and confessing his own lostness when he says “I don’t know what to do . . . it’s all falling to pieces since your mother died . . . haven’t we lost enough?” To which the young Georgie responds, “We haven’t lost mother” and sings a stanza from Where the Lost Things Go. In that moment the family is restored, ushering in a series of events. The bank certificate is found on the kite of course, the time is redeemed by Mary and the Leeries turning back the clock, evil is defeated when the “wolf” Wilkins is fired by Uncle Dawes Jr. who returns Michael’s childhood tupence with sizeable earnings which pays off his loan.
As the family returns to Cherry Tree Lane where the trees are now in full bloom, they stop to visit a fair in the park. It is important to see these concluding scenes for what they truly are: a taste of the heavenly kingdom to come. As the Balloon Lady sings No Where to Go but Up, she makes clear what fills the balloon is a reflection of what’s inside a person. Those who rise (always a resurrection word) become part of The Lovely London Sky. They are filled with the life, love, joy of heaven where, as the song says,“the forever is now”.
As they land at #17 Cherry Tree Lane, Michael confesses he never thought he could feel so much joy and wonder again. He thought that door had closed forever, and with that the door of their home blows open and #17 is filled with the life of heaven. Mary had promised to stay until “the door opens”; the door of all the Banks children’s hearts.
1. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious defined by The Oxford Dictionary implies all that is grand, great, glorious, splendid, superb and wonderful.
2. “Trip a little light fantastic” is to dance nimbly or lightly, or to move in a pattern to musical accompaniment. This phrase evolved through a series of usages and references and is typically attributed to a 1645 poem by Milton. Wikipedia.