Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Ruth Wilson
Duration: 127 mins
Rating: PG – Mild themes
Release Date: 9 January, 2014
Stephen A Russell says: “Being a Disney film, director John Lee Hancock’s take on big daddy Walt’s 20-year campaign to convince obstinate author P.L. Travers to allow him to adapt her Mary Poppins children’s books for the big screen, dancing cartoon penguins and all, was never going to trouble itself too much with the man’s rumoured nasty traits, or with just how unhappy Travers was with the final outcome.
Brushing aside historical inaccuracies in this first feature penned by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, including a rather telling erasure from history of Travers’ adopted son and apparent bisexual love affairs, it seems churlish to hate on what is, otherwise, a rather lovely affair. Emma Thompson is magnificent as the hilariously high-maintenance Travers, who seems determined to thwart the Disney gang at all costs with her ridiculous demands (nothing red in the film, please). Upon arriving at her stuffed toy-festooned hotel suite, she picks up Winnie the Pooh with a grimace and sighs “poor A. A. Milne,” in one of the film’s most magical moments
Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as the PR-approved good guy Walt, though his role isn’t quite as large as you might expect. For the most part Travers deals with his minions, screenplay co-writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and songwriting brothers Robert (B.J. Novak) and Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman), as they attempt to sneak entirely made up words like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious into the film’s saccharine yet insanely catchy ditties. Their clashes make for comic gold, and we can be sure this, at least, is not too far off the truth, thanks to some archival audio footage played out over the end credits. Paul Giammati also shines as Travers’ chauffeur.
If there is one criticism with the structure of the film, it’s with the clumsily handled flashbacks to Travers’ childhood in Australia, which crash land with all the grace and subtlety of an incoming Dumbo. Aside from their jarring interjections, this attempt to flesh out the real reasons behind Travers’ resistance are actually quite powerful.
Then called Helen Goff, aka Ginty, spunky young actress Annie Rose Buckley is eminently likeable and bounces well off of Colin Farrell as her daydreaming father, Travers (see what she did there?), making the tragedy of his alcoholism all the more keenly felt. Ruth Wilson is also good as Ginty’s distraught mother, while a brief cameo from the always-dependable Rachel Griffiths, as Aunt Ellie, would suggest the origins of a certain umbrella-riding nanny.
The many wonderful performances crammed into Saving Mr Banks provides the spoonful of sugar required to wash down the more overt historical tinkering and emotional manipulation going on here, and it really is practically perfect in almost every way.”
David and Margaret say: Margaret: “(But) I actually found this film moving in a strange way. Really I embraced it. I thought she was a little bit too caricaturish at the beginning but then I thought she was lovely…I cried in this. I’m giving it 4 stars.” David: “I thought it was quite sweet too. I’m giving it four stars as well.”
The New York Times says: “Fans of the book and the earlier movie will know that Mr. Banks is the father of the children cared for by Mary Poppins, but even those entirely innocent of her previous literary and cinematic incarnations — if such people exist — will find this movie accessible and enjoyable. That is part of the Disney brand, of course: fun for everyone, with a spoonful of therapeutic medicine to help the sugar seem nutritious. The best parts of “Saving Mr. Banks” offer an embellished, tidied-up but nonetheless reasonably authentic glimpse of the Disney entertainment machine at work.”
The New Yorker says: “Saving Mr. Banks” does the trick. We have to endure Colin Farrell, who looks uncomfortable, sounds un-Australian, and even makes an unconvincing drunk. On the other hand, there’s a kick and a lilt to the scenes in which Travers, ears pricked for solecism, listens to the Sherman brothers (B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman) as they canter through their songs. The director is John Lee Hancock, who does what he did with “The Blind Side,” where he commandeered a true and jagged tale, tidied up the trauma, and made sure that everyone lived sappily ever after. Sandra Bullock carried the day then, and now Emma Thompson repeats the process.