Saving Mr. Banks

By Peter Towe

Published on Friday, November 22, 2013


Two-time Academy Award winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar winner Tom Hanks star in Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, inspired by the extraordinary, untold back story of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the big screen. When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise, one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep.  Walt Disney brings Pamela “PL” Travers, author of the beloved series “Mary Poppins” to L.A. and pulls out all the stops, in order to pursued her for the film rights.  Travers is stubborn and very reluctant to give her character Mary Poppins to a man she feared just wanted it as another brick in his empire, or to turn it into a silly cartoon.  Travers reluctantly begins work on the script with Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and the Sherman brothers played by B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman.  Travers and Disney go back and forth, until she begins to see the potential, and learns a lot about herself in the process.

Saving Mr. Banks is told by jumping between two time periods.  We see “PL” Travers as a young girl in 1907 and in 1961 when Walt Disney brings her out to L.A. to work on the film and pursued her for the film rights.  “PL” Travers is a terribly moody woman, and enjoys almost nothing in life.  At first the audience, and everyone she meets in the film, have no idea why she is the way she is.  When the film jumps from 1961 back to her childhood in 1901, the scenes help show the psychology of why Travers is this way.  The 1901 scenes show Travers childhood, and it was not the easiest.  Colin Farrell plays Travers’ fun loving but alcoholic father, who she really looked up to.  Many of her “quirks” have their origins in this time and are explained effectively by jumping between the two time periods.  This style of film making worked great here and one of the strong points of the film.

Saving Mr. Banks is a light hearted fairly mainstream feeling film, but it worked and will be effective for target audiences.  Of course because it was Disney they couldn’t show some things that actually happened, most notably showing Walt Disney smoking cigarettes, which he did with some frequency.  Some things felt over the top, but it didn’t take me out of the story too much as a viewer.  The acting kept me engaged in the characters and the overall story.

Emma Thompson was fantastic as Pamela “PL” Travers.  She had good chemistry with the other actors in the film, most notably Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, and Bradley Whitford when they were writing and working on the script.  The teams joking personalities clashed brilliantly with Travers’ rough and tough exterior.  Travers entering the fun atmosphere of Disney in the 1960’s was entertaining to watch as she was absolutely disgusted at the extravagance and playfulness of Walt and his empire.

The film was well paced, and works effectively jumping between 1907 and 1961.  Emma Thompson is excellent as Pamela “PL” Travers, and Tom Hanks is as likable as ever as Walt Disney.  Some aspects of the film seemed almost too light hearted and silly, but the film works overall and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.  Saving Mr. Banks is a fun family-friendly movie which during Christmas time is the perfect time of year to take the whole family.

Saving Mr. Banks opens in select theaters December 13 and opens everywhere December 20.



The Good

+ Jumping between 1907 and 1961 works effectively to explain the psychology of PL Travers

+ Fun, light hearted, and well paced

The Bad

- At times feels a little over the top

- Its a Disney movie about a Disney movie, it can only show themselves in a very positive light


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