Parents and grandparents probably have a fond memory of seeing the movie “Mary Poppins”. Many of them probably saw it as children and couldn’t wait to share that experience once they had children of their own. None of them probably have any idea about what it took to get the movie made and the trials and tribulations Walt Disney himself had to go through to get the rights from the book’s author P. L. Travers. That story is now being told in the new movie, "Saving Mr. Banks" starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson opening today, December 20 all over South Florida.
“Saving Mr. Banks” tells two stories simultaneously. One is the story of how Walt Disney flew P. L. Travers from England to Los Angeles to work on the development of the book into the movie., never foreseeing how difficult the author was going to be. The other story is about Travers when she was a little girl in 1906 and an experience she had with her family that led to the hiring of a certain nanny.
You may think that “Saving Mr. Banks” is a movie you will want to share with your children and grandchildren, but that is not the case. While the movie does depict scenes like how some of our favorite songs came to be, the movie is a drama. There are certain elements of the movie that are of a mature nature and not suitable for children. When those dramatic and mature moments are on screen, any kids in attendance will probably find the movie boring and they may start to get cranky. No one likes a cranky kid in a movie theater.
Grownups may find some of “Saving Mr. Banks” a little long in the tooth as well. The movie can move pretty slowly at times. P. L. Travers is such a pain in the neck it’s amazing that Walt Disney was able to tolerate her. Of course, if she was completely amicable during the whole process, there would not be a story to tell here.
Naturally, when you have Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in a movie, you are going to wind up with some great acting. Throw Paul Giamatti into the mix and you end up with a very well rounded cast. Colin Farrell also gives an impressive performance. Thompson must have seen old footage of P. L. because she has mastered the author’s walk, talk and mannerisms. Tom Hanks is the same way in his portrayal of Disney. We don’t see any of the anti-Semitism you often hear rumors about; but, it is interesting to learn other things about Mr. Disney. He used to carry around pieces of paper with his signature on them to give to people who were seeking his autograph. Also…Did you know that his secretary looked like a Disney character?
While some people may see P. L. Travers as being too particular, Disney understood how she saw Mary Poppins and the Banks’ as family. Someone once tried to buy Mickey Mouse from Walt Disney and can you imagine how his life would have turned out if he sold? Still, “Saving Mr. Banks” is given a “Disney” ending. In real life, according to WikiPedia and other reports, P.L. was not pleased with the final product she saw and she hated the animation aspects of the movie. If she had things her way “Mary Poppins” probably would not have gone on to be the classic we know. That is why authors do not always make the best people in charge of turning their books into movies. Having talent in one medium does not guarantee talent in the other.
“Saving Mr. Banks” is an interesting picture as sort of a companion piece to “Mary Poppins”. The process of turning a book into a movie is an involved one. Thank goodness for Walt Disney and his patience because a world without that movie, “Mary Poppins”, is a gloomier place indeed. It is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.