Plot: Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) struggles to convince P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to hand over the rights to her best-selling novel Mary Poppins.
Many people like to say that P.L. Travers had the shit-end of the stick from the moment she signed the agreement to hand over Mary Poppins. That may hold some truth, but it’s hard to feel sorry for Travers after watching Saving Mr. Banks. The movie, which is loosely based on the Mary Poppins author, does give us some insight about the author’s life and her role in the production of the Mary Poppins film. But there’s a lot missing here, pieces that if added, could have brought more historical value to the film and less tear-jerking romanticism.
Aside from the “over-romanticism,” there were many other problems with Saving Mr. Banks, most of which existed in the first half and centered around the film’s progression. I’m going to be completely honest here, this movie doesn’t start out that well. Visually, it’s stunning. The flashbacks are done impeccably and the production scenes have that 1960s vintage feel. But the story moves slow and there were times where I thought, “I could be doing something way better than this right now.” This is not something I’m particularly fond of admitting since I love Disney movies, but there are so many things the viewers could have done without, most especially a chunk of the flashback segments. There were just too many of them and it was obvious they were added for the feel-good heartwarming factor mentioned above. If Colin Farrell (who played Travers’ father in flashbacks) wasn’t as good as he was, I and many other viewers would have probably left long before the first half.
But the good news is the movie does get significantly better. The scenes where Travers and the Disney producers (played by Bradley Whitford, BJ Novak, and Jason Schwartzman) start getting more engaging with humor. Travers relationship with her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti) goes from stiff and unnerving to an absolutely adorable friendship. Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Walt Disney stops coming off as fake and cheesy. It’s almost as if the first half of the film doesn’t exist and the viewers are getting what they paid for. Mid-movie on, I was hooked and also crying but this is a Disney movie, so no surprise there.
Overall, I would recommend Saving Mr. Banks, but I highly suggest viewers prepare for the film’s slow progression. It is very off putting but the performances from the phenomenal cast and the historical aspects makes it worth it in the end.
(Sidenote: History/Disney buffs, stay through the credits for some pretty cool recordings of Travers/Disney conversations.)
Rating: 7 out of 10.