Classic Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Posted: January 25, 2014 in Comedy, Drama


Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) continues his 20 year negotiation with P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) author of the Mary Poppins children’s books.  Disney flies Travers to the Beverly Hills hotel, because he made a promise to his little girls that he would turn the books into a movie.  Travers hates the songs, she hates the first draft of the script, and she refuses to animate any of her characters.  While negotiations drag on, Travers recalls her not-so-idyllic childhood with her father, Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) and mother Margaret Goff.  (Ruth Wilson) Does Disney ever get the book rights to the Mary Poppins books?

The answer to the question is pretty obvious, so that’s not where the drama lies in this movie.  The drama in Saving Mr. Banks emerges from P.L. Travers backstory, which contains a lot more pathos and pain than I expected, I thought this movie would be light, jaunty, family fare, but it’s more than that. Saving Mr. Banks is a real emotional powerhouse, and it comes to that emotion honestly, not through tried and true tearjerker shortcuts.  There are also funny and sweet moments like seeing how the songs were constructed, and hearing the vast emotional range of the songs in Mary Poppins.

The acting is superb.  Tom Hanks is at the top of his game playing the amiable, happy-go-lucky Walt Disney.  The world is Disney’s oyster, and he’s sure he can charm Travers into turning over the book rights to Disney.  Hanks turns on the charm full tilt, but what makes his role special, is that when the role demands seriousness, Hanks delivers.  Emma Thompson has the hardest role in this movie, she is the one rejecting all the script modifications and turning down the money, but Thompson plays Travers expertly, not as a harpy or shrew, but as a loving human being who wants to stay true to the characters she created. Thompson’s matronly manner also adds a comedic edge to the role.  Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak, add some excellent comedy relief, and Paul Giamatti adds a touching note in a smaller role.  Young Annie Rose Buckley does an excellent job in a pivotal role as Ginty.

The writing is excellent, the director moves the pace along, and I don’t think the professional actors in this movie need a lot of help from the director in terms of line readings.

This is a wonderful movie, not just for kids, but it has a lot of emotional heft for adults.  Saving Mr. Banks is a true family film.

Saving Mr. Banks.  Bank on it.


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