By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
In 1964, Walt Disney Pictures released Mary Poppins, and captured the hearts of children and adults all over. Even after forty-nine years, the film still brings joy to audiences discovering it for the very first time. The making of the film wasn’t always a joyful experience. In fact it took years of struggle, heartache, and despair. Those were only the problems that the author P.L. Travers would have to experience in her life before writing her masterpiece. It also took Walt Disney twenty years to convince Travers to trust him and his company with her most cherished baby. Saving Mr. Banks tells this poignant, emotional, and heartwarming story.
In the early sixties after twenty years of negotiation and battles for the film rights to Travers’ story, Disney’s legal department finally gets Travers (Emma Thompson) to agree to see and discuss Disney’s ideas for a Mary Poppins adaptation. Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), the cheery, kid at heart, head of the Disney Corporation, and his filmmakers sit, work, and battle with Travers over the pre-production script, storyboards, costumes, and songs, and these tasks prove to be difficult and grueling. Of course masterpieces rarely come easy to the talents involved, and Travers’ troubled childhood also proves to be an obstacle to Walt Disney and his crew, who simply admire the world Travers has created and only wish to create that magic on the big screen.
Written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, and directed John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), Saving Mr. Banks truly is an emotional journey that will not only bring tears to audiences’ eyes, but will make these same people laugh and sing as they experience how Disney’s adaptation of Mary Poppins came to be. The script by Marcel and Smith is absolutely wonderful and the characters are beautifully written. The entire cast delivers superb performances all around, particularly Thompson who hilariously portrays the stern, no-nonsense Travers. Hanks perfectly fills the giant shoes of Walt Disney quite naturally.
Also highly notable in the cast is Colin Farell who offers an excellent turn as P.L. Travers’ father who appears in flashback sequences. He uses his natural charm and charisma delightfully. The cast also includes welcome appearances by Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, and Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, and Jason Schwartzman.
I left the film teary eyed, but also feeling exuberant as the whole journey is such a wonderful experience. The film is PG-13 for some mature material and probably not appropriate for young children. I highly recommend this film as I consider it one of the very best this year. Fans of Mary Poppins will marvel and enjoy watching the process of their beloved film. Those who have yet to see Poppins will want to run out and watch it.