I don’t write too many movie reviews nowadays. As I imagine happens with a food writer reviewing the savoriness of another restaurant’s pork loin for the 87th time, I was tired of writing reviews in which the majority of what I was saying could very well be a page out of Mad Libs with interchangeable actors and filmmakers and release dates. In how many ways can one describe the cinematography of a film or use repetitive adjectives to describe powerhouse performances?
Face it. You don’t give a damn about what I have to say either – unless you disagree with me, then you will definitely let me know – and that’s okay. So let’s cut the bullshit and get to it.
Saving Mr. Banks is a movie that was developed by Walt Disney Pictures to tell the story of how Walt Disney Studios (and Walt Disney himself) willed Mary Poppins into existence in the early 1960s. Going into the film, I was only mildly interested in the story (of which, it turns out, I knew very little) and it was my love of the actors involved – Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, and Colin Farrell to name a few – that convinced me to see it.
As this is unquestionably a family friendly Disney biopic, Walt Disney is portrayed by Hanks in a mostly positive light, as can be expected, although some of the moodier aspects of his personality (his annoyance with Travers to the point where he didn’t invite her to the premiere, his smoking addiction, etc.) were hinted at – something I wish they would have explored further, as it made Walt that much more interesting on the screen. As one might expect, Hanks is great. Who the hell else could play Walt Disney but Tom Hanks?
This film isn’t about Walt Disney though. Rather, it’s the story of the cranky adult P.L. Travers and her childhood as an innocent and imaginative young girl in Australia with a well-intentioned alcoholic father. It’s the story of how this youth inspired her to write stories about a magical nanny and how it transformed her into this cranky adult that she’s become. Thompson, naturally, is at the top of her game and what I find most interesting about the story was her character’s resistance to nearly everything that Walt wanted the film adaptation of her books to be: a somewhat silly musical with animation.
The rest of the cast is predictably great. The movie also has camera angles, music, and nice costume designs. It will probably win some awards.
If you’re interested in the man that is Walt Disney or even the filmmaking process, Saving Mr. Banks is worth watching. It may romanticize the production of Mary Poppins some, it may leave out some of the juicier aspects of these characters, it may not be without its flaws, it may play it safe as Disney developed biopics always do, but overall, it’s a fun and interesting story about how a timeless classic came to be.