“Saving Mr. Banks”: In Review

“Saving Mr. Banks”

Release Date: Friday December 20, 2013

Run Time: 125 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.

Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti

As a longtime fan of Disney’s “Mary Poppins”, I was very excited to see “Saving Mr. Banks” and learn more about how the tale of everyone’s favorite singing nanny came to life on the big screen.  “Saving Mr. Banks” details the acquisition of the “Mary Poppins” story by Walt Disney from the author P.L. Travers. It is an entertaining, sweet, well acted, and heart-warming story. Of course, as “Mary Poppins” was a simplified and somewhat cartoony version of Travers’ original work, so is the story of “Saving Mr. Banks”. I often wonder how much truth there is to movies that are inspired by actual events and so, after seeing “Saving Mr. Banks”, I decided to find out. I was disappointed to learn that it is far from an accurate depiction of the events it covers.

“Saving Mr. Banks” wins you over with its performances. Tom Hanks portrays Walt Disney as a down to earth, energetic, amiable people pleaser.  Hanks as Walt Disney really wanted you to like him, and you did.  Conversely, I liked Emma Thompson as P.L. Traver’s because her character didn’t care if you liked her.  Thompson does surly well and she was in fine form.

The movie also does a good job of exploring the meaning and motivation behind “Mary Poppins” as she existed in Travers’ original work.  It was clearly a very personal book, and one understands why she was so hesitant to relinquish control over it.  After seeing this movie, I plan to read “Mary Poppins” and re-watch the Disney movie.

It is ironic that this film about the Disneyfication of her treasured work has been so Disneyfied itself.  This is a sweet film about a not so sweet story. In real life, Travers held onto decades of resentment for how she perceived she was treated during the making and subsequent release of “Mary Poppins”.  She steadfastly refused to collaborate on any future Mary Poppins projects.  Even though “Saving Mr. Banks” is undeniably entertaining, it has to be noted that P.L. Travers would have hated this movie as much as she hated Disney’s “Mary Poppins”. I enjoyed it, but it all seems a little too disingenuous when put in context of the real life story.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst, 5 being the best and 10 being the worst again, I give “Saving Mr. Banks” a 3.25 with an emoticon based sub ranking of: Conflicted.

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