When “Saving Mr. Banks” first came out, I read a number of reviews that criticized the movie as being just “one big Disney advertisement.” I finally got to see the movie yesterday and I can tell you that there is nothing further from the truth.
“Saving Mr. Banks” tells the story of Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) 20-year quest in 1961 to bring author PL Travers (Emma Thompson) book Mary Poppins to the big screen. Disney’s daughters had made him promise to make a Mary Poppins movie, but little did he know the difficulties that would await him. Travers finally agrees to travel from London to Los Angeles to discuss the project because people have stopped buying the book and the money has dried up. When the two meet up, Disney finds Travers curmudgeonly, uncompromising, and outright nasty. Travers informs Disney that she must have the final say so on all matters of the movie, otherwise there will be no deal ─ she is afraid that the studio will turn her story into some kind of silly animated musical. The two go back and forth with verbal sparring sessions while making the movie, with Disney taking the soft approach; but Travers proves intractable.
There are other underlying issues at work though. The story is told in a number of sequences that bring Travers back to her difficult childhood growing up in turn of the century Australia with her mother and alcoholic father, Travers Goff (Colin Farrell/ Mr. Banks). Travers Goff is a banker, who looks at life as an adventure, but he is in continuous jeopardy because of his drinking. On the other hand, his wife Margaret (Ruth Wilson) seems to be a crew member on a sinking ship.
This movie is nothing like I expected it to be. While it is uplifting and humorous at times, is also addressed some serious and depressing issues. Director John Lee Hancock does a wonderful job weaving that past with the present with the help of a wonderful cast. Tom Hanks, once again, proves he is one of the best in portraying the charming Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson is wonderful in her role as PL Travers. Colin Farrell is convincing as the troubled “Mr. Banks,” and Paul Giamotti is great in a bit part playing the Disney hired chauffeur for Mrs. Travers. This is a very good movie where you can learn a little history and have a good time.
I highly recommend it. (PG13; 125 mins.)
Reviewers Note: “Saving Mr. Banks” is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
My Rating: 4 of 5 Dancing Penguins