Film Review: ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ With Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson

December 12th, 2013

Francois Duhamel/Walt Disney Images

Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks in “Preserving Mr. Banks,” directed by John Lee Hancock.

“Saving Mr. Financial institutions,” launched by Disney, is a movie about the making of a Disney motion picture (“Mary Poppins”), in which Walt Disney himself (performed by Tom Hanks) is a key character. It consists of a visit to Disneyland and, if you appear intently, a teaser for its companion theme park in Florida (as nevertheless unbuilt, when the story requires area). A large Mickey Mouse plush toy seems from time to time to supply an additional touch of humor and warmth. But it would be unfair to dismiss this photo, directed by John Lee Hancock from a script by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, as an physical exercise in corporate self-promotion. It is far more of a mission assertion.

It also revisits a proud instant in the company’s history: the making of “Mary Poppins,” at the time (the early ’60s) the most expensive reside-motion movie Disney experienced produced, and at some point 1 of the most profitable and beloved. A lot more exactly, “Saving Mr. Banks” recounts the consummation, in organization and innovative conditions, of Walt Disney’s long courtship of P. L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins, played with spirited fussiness by Emma Thompson. Followers of the book and the before motion picture will know that Mr. Banking institutions is the father of the children cared for by Mary Poppins, but even individuals entirely innocent of her previous literary and cinematic incarnations — if these kinds of men and women exist — will uncover this film accessible and satisfying.

That is part of the Disney brand name, of program: fun for everyone, with a spoonful of therapeutic drugs to aid the sugar appear wholesome. The ideal areas of “Saving Mr. Banks” supply an embellished, tidied-up but nevertheless fairly reliable glimpse of the Disney enjoyment machine at perform.

Mrs. Travers, as she insists on getting named, is a starchy, grouchy Londoner whose books have stopped marketing. At the urging of her agent, she submits to the ordeal of a first-course flight to Los Angeles, a suite at the Beverly Hills Lodge and every day limousine service to Burbank, where she is plied with cookies, snack cakes, Jell-O squares and, when she insists on it, tea.

None of this Southern California hospitality — or the friendliness of her driver (an unusually sunny Paul Giamatti) — melts Mrs. Travers’s dedication to defend her creation from Disney’s whimsy. “I won’t have her turned into one of your foolish cartoons,” she declares. Walt, informed that he does not but have the rights to “Mary Poppins,” grants her script acceptance. She proceeds to torment the screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and the songwriting staff of Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak) with objections about everything from casting to costumes to the grammar of the screenplay. The audience, meanwhile, is dealt with to stripped-down, in-progress variations of songs from “Mary Poppins,” notably the infectious “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”

But this is not just the tale of how the happy artisans of Hollywood and their manager soften the heart of an uptight Englishwoman (who was actually born in Australia). It is that, of system. Ms. Thompson has no peer when it will come to British stiffness, and Mr. Hanks is a master of evocative facial hair, American regional accents and earnest likability. His Missouri twang, mellowed by the California sun, is as welcoming and reassuring as the genuine Walt Disney’s used to be each Sunday night time when he launched his television broadcast. Normally preceded by an off-display cough — a premonition of the lung most cancers that would get rid of him a few of many years after the “Mary Poppins” premiere — Walt is less a mogul than a kind and reliable daddy. He dotes on his intellectual qualities (the mouse, the park, the photo) as if they ended up his youngsters. He would like to adapt Mrs. Travers’s novel to maintain a guarantee to his daughters.

As it turns out — as we find out long ahead of Walt does — the author’s personal daddy problems are at the heart of her reluctance to perform nice in the Disney inventive sandbox. “Saving Mr. Banks” toggles between 1961 Burbank and a dusty village in Australia much more than fifty percent a century prior to, when the potential P. L. Travers was a tiny lady named Helen Goff (Annie Rose Buckley), nicknamed Ginty by her beloved father (Colin Farrell). An impish, imaginative fellow, he is also a hopeless alcoholic, scarcely capable to keep onto his job taking care of a lender, and causing his very poor wife (Ruth Wilson) no finish of fear.

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