SAVING MR. BANKS REVIEW (GRADE: A-)
In Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) bends over backwards to gain the favor of author P.L. Travers and acquire the film rights to her Mary Poppins book series. Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee) initially portrays Travers as an almost one-dimensionally unlikable person; it’s a gamble that could’ve alienated audiences but it pays off as the ice begins to melt. Travers’ creations were sacred to her, making her resistant to Disney’s well-meaning attempts to deliver her story in his sugar-coated fashion.
Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney represents the merging of two of popular entertainment’s most beloved figures; it’s yet another terrific showing by the actor. The rest of the cast is superb as well, with character actors Paul Giamatti and Bradley Whitford (as the cabbie and creative team leader, respectively) delivering fine work as usual. Both play marvelously off of Thompson, drawing out likable aspects of her character that aren’t seen in the beginning. Colin Farrell (The Recruit) has so often been typecast as an arrogant hotshot that his heartbreaking performance as Traver’s father (in flashbacks) is something of a revelation here.
If the film has a weakness it’s that it spends very little time on the real-life inspiration for Poppins herself. I found myself wanting to know more about her and thought she was glossed over too quickly. But then the title itself denotes that this isn’t her story and it never was. Ultimately, Saving Mr. Banks is about a good man overcome by his personal demons, the redemption his daughter sought for him through her writing, and how “Uncle Walt” and his creative team finally brought her catharsis. It’s also a fascinating glimpse into the creative process behind a beloved classic. You’ll appreciate Mary Poppins in a whole new light.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Saving Mr. Banks is rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material involving
alcoholism, physical illness, death, and mental instability. These story elements, combined with the film’s meditative pace, make it more suitable for teens and adults than for children, but it’s not offensive. There’s about three mild-to-moderate profanities, but no harsh profanity, sexuality, or violence.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Alcohol abuse destroys lives and families (D&C 89:4-7; Proverbs 23:21). The process of creating art can help us to cope with personal tragedy and loss. We need to keep our word and do what we say we’ll do (1 Nephi 4:33-37; Matthew 5:33-37).
Now, just for fun, here’s my favorite Mary Poppins related YouTube video: Scary Mary, which edits footage from the classic Disney film to make it look like a trailer for a horror movie. Pretty darn funny, in its own creepy way.
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