Saving Mr. Banks Movie Review
Walt Disney Pictures whitewashes history but does so in entertaining fashion in Saving Mr. Banks, a delightful comedy-drama about the studio founder's attempt to adapt the novel Mary Poppins, despite the reservations of its author P.L. Travers.
According to Disney, she was a real bitch.
Emma Thompson delivers a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious performance as the woman, who history tells us was probably not the most accommodating of individuals. Thompson plays ice queen in delicious fashion, while still, somehow, managing to keep her accessible, likable and even funny. Saving Mr. Banks rests largely on her shoulders for a reason.
Tom Hanks, after struggling for years to get his groove back, has gotten his groove back this year with the excellent Captain Phillips and now this production. Given that Saving Mr. Banks is a Disney film, it's no surprise that Walt Disney the man is portrayed as the wholesome voice of reason to counteract P.L. Travers' bitchiness, ironic given that he was known as someone who usually got his way, too. That's not Hanks' problem, however, and he is very good in the role.
Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Rookie), Saving Mr. Banks is a fun, witty movie that is generally lighthearted but knows how to yank on the heartstrings when the time is right. The movie flashes between the 1960s, where Travers goes to battle with Disney and a team of screen- and song-writers, and her childhood in rural Australia, where her loving but alcoholic father (Colin Farrell) plays a central but mysterious role in everything to follow.
Farrell has been left on the wayside as the marketing has focused on Hanks and Thompson, but Farrell's character gets more screen time and is more important than Hanks'. He's a very talented actor and proves his worth once again.
As good as it is, Saving Mr. Banks isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread. It's fun, entertaining and at times emotional (ladies, prepare to cry in the film's final minutes), but the drama is still Disney drama, exaggerated even more because it is about Walt Disney himself. Nonetheless, I can think of very few negative things to say.
Saving Mr. Banks is one of the better movies of 2013 and an enjoyable, lighthearted contrast to many of the more serious Oscar contenders that hit theaters this month. The movie does whitewash history (Travers allegedly hated the Mary Poppins movie so much that in her will she stated that no one involved in the film production could participate in the stage play, which will make you think twice about the feel-good ending Hancock gives us), but sometimes you just need to say "oh well" - and take a spoonful of sugar.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.