THIS colourful, gloriously frothy re-emergence of the character who first floated down on to our screens more than 50 years ago performs a neat trick of giving things a fresh sense of panache while keeping things endearingly old-school.

The Banks children have now all grown up. Michael (Ben Whishaw) has been left to raise precocious children of his own – Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) – by himself after their mother died. His sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer), helps out when she can between campaigning for workers’ rights.

Just as Michael faces losing his childhood home due to not being able to pay back a hefty loan, he receives a magical blast from the past in the form of the mystical Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), who returns holding on to Michael’s beloved old kite which blew away. “It got caught on a nanny!” exclaims young Georgie. It’s a line indicative of the film’s bubbly tone.

Imagination is the key ingredient; the musical numbers themselves are plentiful and catchy, and the stellar performances lovingly marry the sensibilities of stage musicals, the original Mary Poppins, and the fantastical avenues afforded to modern cinema.

But it’s also about the very idea of imagination itself, about what it can mean to children and those that have forgotten what it was like to be that age. In that way it’s a lovely continuation instead of a traditional retread as Mary Poppins arrives like a whirlwind to sort things out.

Blunt is a terrific bit of casting, finding the essence of the character while putting down her own enjoyably mannered stamp. She’s a delightful presence and a joy to behold, flitting effortless between prim-and-proper mother figure and all-singing, all-dancing figure of fun to lift the children out of their worries.

There’s some terrifically creative, visually gorgeous flights of fancy on display at regular intervals, whether it be a dance sequence involving Mary Poppins and a group of lamp lighters, led by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wide-eyed Jack (not playing the same role but basically taking up the Dick Van Dyke mantle), or a traditional hand-drawn animation sequence that beautifully recalls classic Disney days.

It’s hard to deny the big-hearted sincerity on offer here and, to be honest, I don’t really know why you’d want to.

Clothed in timely, if broadly played, messages about economic hardship, the result of bringing the legendary character back to life is a vibrantly joyous experience primed to send its audience away with as much of a spring in their step as the film itself. The magic is still there.