Saving Mr. Banks Movie Review

Depending on your love for MARY POPPINS, may just affect how much you enjoy SAVING MR. BANKS.  As one of my all-time favorite sing-alongs growing up, Disney’s MARY POPPINS is about as magical as you can get.   Therefore, the behind-the-scenes film adaptation of the P.L. Travers novel, made for a charming and fascinating adventure that teaches us that even life’s sadnesses can be turned into joyous inspiration.

Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks

Author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is a surly, stand-offish woman who is very protective of her beloved novel Mary Poppins.  But Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) made a promise to his daughters years ago that he would make their favorite book into their favorite movie.  Walt enlists screenwriter Don Dagradi (Bradley Whitford) and music genuises Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak) to work with Mrs. Travers in finding the appropriate adapation of Mary Poppins.  Even the limo driver, Ralph (played with unarming charm by Paul Giamatti), does his best win over the unbudging author.  The task will be more difficult than they thought when prickly Pamela, or Mrs. Travers, as she prefers to be called, proves to be very particular and uncompromising to big screen visuals.   “No animation,” “no songs,” and “no red color” seem like unreasonable demands that would make anyone give up, but Walt Disney is very persistent in winning over the author of his children’s favorite bedtime book.

Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks

Have you ever wondered about what possible sing song true life story could influence MARY POPPINS?  It might surprise you to hear that it involves an alcoholic father who couldn’t hold a job, putting extra hardships on his struggling family.  Granted that would be an outsiders view, but Mrs. Travers remembers a man who tried his best to make his family happy.  Revealing a deep sorrow masked by playful gusto, Colin Farrell is excellent as the father and title character. Young Annie Rose Buckley is equally wonderful holding her own in a demanding role as child with too much on her plate.

Colin Farrell in Saving Mr. Banks

Throughout SAVING MR. BANKS, the audience is treated to these flashbacks that connects the dots from drama to comedy.  Through a young girl’s eyes who loved her playful father dearly, the audience is able to understand who this icy woman is and why she holds her book so tightly.  While these moments slow down the film considerably, they are important dramatical pieces that give the whole story a much needed weight.  Without the traumatic hardships, the hopeful happy outcome doesn’t have the same impact.

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks

But the film truly comes to life during the present day 1961, as Walt and his crew do everything they can to appease Mrs. Travers and convince her to hand over the production rights.  Their exuberance is contagious as they sing, dance and provide sugary treats to snack on during the script table-reads.  By keeping the surrounding characters fun-loving and kind, Mrs. Travers’ unwavering mean attitude feels light and less villainous, even a bit comical.  The comedy to drama line is very thin, that SAVING MR. BANKS manages to walk very carefully, balancing the tone exquisitely. Hanks and Thompson are on top of their game, while the rest of the cast matches their enthusiasm lifting the delightful story to new heights.  SAVING MR. BANKS rekindles a forgotten passion for an incredible film that, if you are anything like me, will have you laughing, crying, yearning to fly a kite, and believing that a spoonful of sugar will help the medicine go down.


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