Mary Poppins Returns arrives over 50 years after the first onscreen appearance of the eponymous nanny. Yet, the magical guardian of the Banks children in the 1964 Academy Award-nominated film, played by Julie Andrews, doesn’t look a day older – thanks to a little movie magic and recasting.

Emily Blunt, 35, takes up the mantle (or rather, wool coat and parrot umbrella) of the beloved English governess in Walt Disney Pictures’ sequel, which takes place 25 years after the first film’s events. With Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) Banks now grown up, and the former having children of his own, Mary will have her work cut out for her. Let’s take a look at Blunt’s film resume and see if she is the right woman for the job:

1. She can handle ankle-biters

Silence meant survival for Blunt’s character and her kids in A Quiet Place. Credit: IMDB

Every babysitter needs to be a surrogate parent for a few hours, and Blunt has had extensive cinematic experience with little monsters, both figuratively and literally. In her last live-action movie, the critically acclaimed horror flick A Quiet Place, her character Evelyn has to raise two sons and a deaf daughter in a world overrun by creatures that hunt by sound. Evelyn is also pregnant, and the film’s most tense moments occur when she goes into labour.

In the 2012 sci-fi actioner Looper, she plays Sara, a woman whose son has telekinetic powers. Sara’s kid is so dangerous, she has to hide in a safe room whenever he throws a tantrum. When a time-travelling assassin (played by both Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets Sara, she has to protect her child from the man’s future self.

Colin Firth plays a bank executive more concerned with his own ambition than the predicament of the Banks family in Mary Poppins Returns. Credit: IMDB

In Mary Poppins Returns, Mary comes back to Cherry Tree Lane to find Michael stuck in a dead-end job and struggling to raise three children as a recent widower. Times are tough in Depression-era London, and the chairman of the bank Michael works at, Mr Wilkins (Colin Firth), is in the process of foreclosing the Banks’ home. Compared with vicious aliens and time-jumping killers, cheering up three kids and two kids-at-heart should be a walk in the park.


2. She’s a practically perfect chanteuse

Blunt, seen here with James Corden in Into The Woods, will reunite with the film’s director Rob Marshall in Mary Poppins Returns. Credit: IMDB

Like its predecessor, Mary Poppins Returns is a musical, and a magical nanny worth her salt (and spoonful of sugar) should be able to sing spontaneously. In director Rob Marshall’s Into The Woods, the 2014 adaptation of a Broadway play based on the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales, Blunt plays The Baker’s Wife. She embarks on a quest with The Baker (James Corden) to find four items to lift a curse, and they encounter a few characters – familiar to us from the fables – along the way. Blunt gets a cute duet, It Takes Two, with her co-star Corden. Interestingly, there was going to be another duet for the duo titled Rainbows that was originally written for a canned 1992 film adaptation, but it was cut before shooting began.


Blunt will reunite with Marshall for Mary Poppins Returns, with the latter helming the Disney sequel and bringing aboard Into The Woods alumnus Mike Higham as executive music producer and music supervisor. Unlike Into The Woods, songs from Mary Poppins Returns will be, in Emily’s words, “effectively catered” to her. At a press conference last year, Emily said: “To be a person to birth some of these songs has been such a huge honour. I think I feel less pressure approaching it in this way than I would doing an adaptation of something that’s been done before, because it’s not comparative.” Going by how she performs one of the sequel’s nine original songs in the above clip, Blunt’s got the crooning down pat.


3. She can bring animated characters to life

Speaking of musicals and rainbows, Blunt played against type as an antagonist in last year’s My Little Pony: The Movie, a theatrically released motion picture based on the TV series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Blunt voices Tempest Shadow, a unicorn with a broken horn and vendetta against the candy-coloured equines. In an interview with ScreenSlam, she describes her character as “sinister and dark”, nothing like what she was expecting: “a pastel, flower-power kind of pony”.

In the great tradition of animated baddies, the right-hand mare to Liev Schreiber’s Storm King gets a big villain number, Open Up Your Eyes, which you can listen to in the above clip. Blunt has also done voicework in Gnomeo & Juliet and Sherlock Gnomes as Juliet and the English dub of The Wind Rises as Nahoko Satomi.

Mary, her pal Jack and the Banks children get drawn together in the Royal Doulton Music Hall sequence. Credit: IMDB

Like Julie Andrews’ Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in the first film, Blunt gets an animated musical number in Mary Poppins Returns‘ Royal Doulton Music Hall sequence, where Mary and her friend Jack the lamplighter (Lin Manuel-Miranda of Hamilton and Moana fame) are invited onto a vaudeville music hall stage and perform the song A Cover Is Not The Book. Although it is Mary who conjures up the cartoon critters onscreen, the true credit goes to the over 70 animators, many coming out of retirement and including some from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, who spent 16 months to create the animated scenes.


4. She has impeccable sartorial taste

Blunt’s Emily Charlton in The Devil Wears Prada. Who else could work a vest with shoulder wings? Credit: IMDB

Twelve years ago, Blunt got her big break and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in The Devil Wears Prada as Emily Charlton, the vicious assistant to Meryl Streep’s fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly and rival to Anne Hathaway’s rookie. Along with searing put-downs like “You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choos” and the hand-gesture combo of “I’m hearing this and I wanna hear this” – which she stole from a mother speaking to her child in a supermarket (0:50 onwards) – her character was dressed to kill in the cut-throat fashion industry.

Costume designer Sandy Powell created a more modern look for the eccentric nanny that would still stay true to the essence of the character from the first film. Credit: IMDB

In Mary Poppins Returns, Mary’s wardrobe is updated to include a blue wool coat with a cape, a men’s styled jacket and tie, and a two-piece, red wool suit with a full skirt that was made specifically for dancing. Costume designer Sandy Powell (who also worked on The Young Victoria starring Blunt in the title role) studied vintage street photography and fashion advertisements for inspiration. In nine months, she created 448 original costumes for the movie.

For the titular character, Powell wanted her to look “both sensible and stylish and sophisticated, but not frivolous”. She added: “Soft and floral colours aren’t right for her character, so I went with quite strong, bold, geometric shapes and patterns within the fabrics – lots of zigzags, chevrons and polka dots – which were popular at the time”. Very avant garde, we’re sure Miranda would approve (and for Streep fans, you’d be delighted to know that Blunt’s The Devil Wears Prada and Into The Woods co-star is in this movie too as Mary’s eccentric cousin Topsy!).


5. She’s ready for action

Blunt stays sharp as an FBI agent in Sicario. Credit: IMDB

Blunt is no stranger to hard-hitting thrillers; some of her best performances were in a few of them! Who could forget her principled Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in the dirty world of Sicario, her valiant Sergeant Rita Vrataski aka Full Metal B*tch from Tom Cruise’s Edge Of Tomorrow, or her polar-bear-riding Ice Queen Freya in The Huntsman: Winter’s War? Here’s a fun fact: Blunt was Marvel’s first choice for Black Widow, a role which she turned down. She later passed on playing the part of Agent Carter too.

Mary and friends hop to it. Credit: IMDB

Chasing Mexican cartels and shooting Mimics has prepared her for the physically demanding role of Mary. Yes, it takes muscle strength and gymnast agility to do those pirouettes!  In one scene where the cast floats into the sky with magic balloons, the actors wore harnesses that could be hoisted upwards via cranes.  In another, 100 modern BMX bikes were used by parkour stunt bike riders, who perform a freestyle form of biking that incorporates mid-air moves. We’re not sure whether Mary gets to pop a wheelie or do a 180 Ollie, but we wouldn’t put it past Blunt to pull these sick moves off!

So there you have it, five reasons why Blunt has got what it takes to be the coolest caretaker ever. Watch The Perfect Nanny bring the magic back to her charges, new and old, in Mary Poppins Returns, opening on December 25. For a great treat this Christmas, take the whole family to Golden Village Gold Class and enjoy the Mary Poppins Returns Dining Set, which comes with a specially curated Turkey Roulade, soft drink or juices, and a Yuletide gift.


Sources: Golden Village Cinemas, Walt Disney StudiosIMDB, YouTube, Mental Floss, CinemaBlendScreenSlam, The Howard Stern Show


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