John Lee Hancock
Walt Disney Pictures gives you a behind-the-scene look at how Walt Disney Pictures acquired and made “Mary Poppins.”
Despite the film taking place at the Disney studio, the focus is completely on the original author of “Mary Poppins,” Pamela P.L. Travers (Thompson). The movie goes into detail about how she traveled to California to meet with Walt Disney (Hanks) himself to work out a deal to let Disney take the rights for a movie adaption of her beloved novel.
Travers, for much of the movie, is absolutely reluctant to have her book be made into a film adaption, however Disney, his film crew, and even flashbacks from the past help her become more comfortable with the idea as the film moves along.
“Saving Mr. Banks” is a tale of two stories. One part is the story of Disney trying to get the rights to make a movie adaption of “Mary Poppins.” The other is Travers’ background of her father who despite being loving father was also a man who fell into alcoholism. The biggest problem is the movie isn’t able to transition between the two well.
Instead of making the two go along seamlessly, the flashbacks instead seem to halt the film. When the movie is telling the story Disney acquiring “Poppins,” it feels like it has a ton of momentum, but just as things get moving, the film throws in a flashback that stops everything in its tracks. Whenever a flashback would happen it felt as though the movie was stopping and turning to the audience to give some explanation of why the Travers character was feeling a certain way. It caused the film to be a bit disjointed.
That’s not to say either story that was told in the film was bad, in fact, they were really good. Seeing a dramatized behind the scenes of the early stages of making “Mary Poppins” was a real treat. Learning how different aspects were made and how the songs were come up with was simply a joy to watch. And the background story of Travers’ life growing up was emotionally engaging and an important element to the film overall. The film just didn’t mesh the two together very well.
The acting in the movie is superb. The supporting cast is very memorable, with strong performances coming from Paul Giamatti, B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman, who all play Disney workers trying to charm Travers. Novak and Schwartzman, who play the songwriters behind the music in “Mary Poppins, are especially fantastic showing the creative talent that both men had and their frustrations dealing with Travers’ demands.
Of course the best parts of the film are the portrayals from Hanks and Thompson, though. Both performers are great in the movie. Hanks is awesome as Walt Disney, capturing much of the charm that the real life figure probably used in trying to get the rights to Travers’ work. Hanks also provides the perseverance that Disney showed in not giving up to get those rights.
Thompson is also fantastic, being the tough as nails woman who wouldn’t let her property be made a mockery of by the big Hollywood studio. As the film goes on, Travers becomes more OK with the thought of “Poppins” being brought to the big screen and Thompson really emotes that change in the character.
Colin Farrell is also very good in the movie, giving one of his better performances of his career. It was just a shame that the film wasn’t able to transition as well to the flashbacks in which he appears.
“Saving Mr. Banks” is a really enjoyable movie. It has good has a lot of heart and it is very fun seeing the various songs be worked on at Disney studios. The performances are also very good. The film just doesn’t have a real good flow to it to keep a person fully engaged from start to finish. High 3 out of 5.