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The terror of Travers overshadows "Saving Mr. Banks" (DVD review)

Saving Mr. Banks

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Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Saving Mr. Banks poster
Walt Disney Pictures

Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson

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Based on the true story, "Saving Mr. Banks" delves into the 20-year courtship of Walt Disney (Hanks) and the famous nanny from P.L. Travers' classic novels. Mr. Disney (or "Walt," as he prefers to be called) has his sights set on making a new, groundbreaking film based on the classic Mary Poppins books, but Mrs. Travers (Thompson) is hesitant to let her fabled nanny fall into the wrong hands. As Walt fights for the character, amidst a plethora of strict regulations, flashbacks to Mrs. Travers' childhood shed some light onto her peculiar personality and the origins of her beloved stories.

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The Breakdown:

First things first: Thompson's Travers is one of the most dislikable characters of 2013. She becomes an irritant every time she takes the screen, standing in stark contrast to Hanks' jovial Disney and a charming cast of costars. The flashbacks to Travers' childhood are jarring, alternating from the sweet little girl to the grown-up prude. One hopes that Travers will warm up by the end of the film - that some magical event, be it personal introspection or (Heaven forbid) alcoholic beverage, will lighten her the heck up - but, other than one or two miraculous instances, it never happens. It's incredibly disappointing.

The most enjoyable parts of the movie are the drawing-room scenes featuring the Sherman brothers (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) and writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford). While offering a serious sense of nostalgia for the original 1964 film, the scenes (and music, especially) also provide a much-needed dose of levity and, at times, comic relief. Paul Giamatti is also extremely welcome in his role as the kind-hearted chauffeur, Ralph.

Another nice touch is the film's authentic recreation of a 1960s Los Angeles, from the costuming to a believable retro Disneyland and on down to the old school, bug-eyed version of Mickey Mouse. Good work.

The movie, which received a PG-13 rating, should be ok for a general audience, but may be a bit dry for young children. Additionally, as a word of caution, the film loosely depicts the deadly dangers of alcoholism and includes one traumatic scene where a child nearly witnesses a parent attempting suicide, which can be unsettling for viewers of any age.

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The Verdict:

At 125 minutes, "Saving Mr. Banks" feels a little drawn out. It's a long movie and that's a long time to tolerate such a grumpy old lady. However, the film accomplishes its main purpose, which is to deepen the audience's love for one of Travers' and Disney's most beloved characters. After watching "Saving Mr. Banks," families will want to go back and watch "Mary Poppins" - and that's the point. The movie is certainly a good one and it tells an interesting story, but it may take a spoonful of sugar to wash down. Unfortunately, the terror of Travers overshadows it all in the end. "I can't abide cartoons"? Really? Come on, lady.

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Similar movies: "Mary Poppins" (1964), "Finding Neverland" (2004), "The Sound of Music" (1965)

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DVD bonus features:

- Audio in: English, French, Spanish, English Descriptive Audio

- Subtitles in: English, French, Spanish, Chinese

- Deleted scene: "Nanny Song"

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Directed by: John Lee Hancock

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Running time: 125 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 for "thematic elements including some unsettling images." Nothing inherently offensive.

Costars Colin Farrell, Annie Rose Buckley, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak

DVD release date: March 18, 2014

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