This joyous celebration of the struggles that accompany bringing art to life is a spoonful of sugar.
Disney’s Mary Poppins is nearly 50 years old now, and Saving Mr. Banks is a moving tribute to the rarely-told story that unfolded behind the making of the film. Tom Hanks is wonderful in what is the first ever portrayal of Uncle Walt in a major film, and Emma Thompson delights as Poppins’ author, P.L. Travers. While Disney tries his best to light up the charm in hopes she’ll give up the rights to her books, she does her best to refuse being charmed.
The hardest part of the film to pull off, surely, must have been balancing the story of Travers’ interaction with Disney in Los Angeles, and the flashbacks to her childhood in Australia. But it works. Her relationship with her father provides many of the heart-tugging moments in the film, turning from a sweet and joyful tale into one of tragedy and heartbreak.
Predictably sentimental, Saving Mr. Banks may be seen by some as a shameless plug for the Disney Corporation, but even if it is- it’s a brilliant one. Celebrating the magic and legacy of Walt Disney and the kingdom he created all those years ago, it is an effectively moving story that does not sanitize the struggles that the creative heads went through in making Mary Poppins. Walt is not made out to be the squeaky-clean image of perfection that one might expect the studio bearing his name to portray him as, but instead is shown as the flawed, cigarette-smoking, stubborn man he was. Yes, he had a flair for the “magical,” but he wasn’t perfect.
The heart of the film is in finding these two artists, both children at heart in different ways, learning how to interact with one another and put aside their differences: through each other, they learn to face the adult fears that their inner children are afraid of dealing with. It’s a special tribute to both the creators behind Mickey Mouse and Mary Poppins, as they come to further realize the redemptive power stories play in our lives.
+ Even balance of the two main storylines
+ Emotional scenes are not forced
+ Great ensemble cast
+ Lots of humor
+ Depiction of Walt Disney does not make him out to be perfect
+ Wonderfully intertwines mature themes of adult fear and childhood pain into what could have been a familiar family drama
Saving Mr. Banks is a sweetly moving depiction of artists learning to collaborate with one another, offering a likable story with plenty of fun, laughs, and heart. Just like Walt, the movie’s not perfect, but it is an emotionally satisfying take on the true story behind one of the most beloved films of all time. Tap your toes to the classic songs, celebrate the magic of Disney, and remember the wonder of Mary Poppins.
Saving Mr. Banks is rated PG-13 for “thematic elements,” whatever that means. To be honest, there is nothing parents should be cautious of other than a few references that Walt smoked, and the flashback sequences which show Travers’ father as an alcoholic. Fine for older kids and up.
© Matt Tory, 2013.