Should you want to find fault with Saving Mr Banks, the story of Walt Disney’s attempt to make Mary Poppins AND keep author PL Travers happy, you can. It’s overlong. It’s twee. The psychological angle is heavy handed. It’s standard Tom Hanks being American and laidback vs standard Emma Thompson being British and uptight. However, for all its potential faults and clichés, it’s a hard heart that won’t be melted by this funny and moving tale.
The film is told in two time frames. In the early 60s, after 20 years of negotiations, the cash-strapped Travers (Thompson) travelled to Hollywood to participate in the development of her beloved Mary Poppins (“never just Mary”). Travers’ default position is that Walt Disney (Hanks) will destroy her vision with animation, terrible songs and a general lack of understanding of just what her story is really about (hint: there’s a big bloody cue in the title of this film).
As well as this amusing and entertaining slice of cinema history (and do wait for the end credits), the film also flashes back to Travers’ Australian childhood and what happened to her beloved, troubled and imaginative father (Farrell) and how the idea of Mary Poppins came about in the first place.The results are damn near magical. The performances are terrific – all the above, plus support from the likes of Giamatti, Whitford, Watson, Griffiths and Schwartzman – and Travers’ gradual melting is believable, if a little over egged. Hanks is charm incarnate, Thompson is on familiar (and excellent) ground, and if you don’t feel a tear running down your cheek at least twice in two hours, I’d be very surprised.
EXTRAS ★½ Yet another Disney release where the bonus materials are thin on the ground: just three deleted scenes (7:24); the featurette The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins To The Present (14:35); and Let's Go Fly a Kite (HD, 2 minutes), which sees Mary Poppins co-songwriter Richard Sherman leading a singalong with the Saving Mr Banks cast and crew on the last day of filming.