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Saving Mr. Banks Movie Review

Reviewed by on Dec 12, 2013
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Walt Disney really wanted to make a movie out of the popular book “Mary Poppins”. Standing in his way was the woman who wrote it. Kidzworld checks out the new film Saving Mr. Banks.

By: Lynn Barker

When Walt Disney decided that his daughters needed somewhere cool to go with their dad, he created Disneyland. When they loved the inspiring book “Mary Poppins”, he decided to make it into a film….with music…and animation. The book’s writer Pamela Travers was having no part of that.

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney welcomes Mrs. TraversTom Hanks as Walt Disney welcomes Mrs. Travers

Book to Film? 

In the early 1960’s, Pamela Travers (Emma Thompson) author of the novel “Mary Poppins” has been summoned to Disney Studios in L.A. to chat with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) about his desire to make a film of her book. Since she is totally broke, she really can’t say no but she thinks Mr. Disney makes “silly cartoons” and she isn’t about to have her beloved creation turned into one.

Walt Disney tries to convince Travers that a carousel ride should be fun

Growing Up

In flashback scenes throughout the film, we see that Pamela grew up with a kindly, child-like, fun and mostly loveable dad (Colin Farrell) whom she loved dearly but who was also an alcoholic.  When he couldn’t hold a bank job for very long, he moved the family to the boonies in Australia for a final job attempt. When the family fell into chaos, Pamela’s mom’s sister (Rachel Griffiths), who much resembles Mary Poppins, came to put everything in order. Dad could also be strict, explaining why Pamela is so uptight as an adult.

Young Pamela Travers on her family farmYoung Pamela Travers on her family farm

Animation, Songs and Protests

Back to the ‘60’s, in L.A., the adult Mrs. Travers protests addition of music to the Mary Poppins  film, then wants changes in every (now famous) song. The Sherman Brothers, songwriters played by Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak, are terrified to show her or perform “Supercalifragilistic” for her after she has vicious notes on “Feed the Birds” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” even though she finally kind of gets into that high flying number. Travers is just puzzled at first when Disney tells her that there is animation in the film but that live action actors (Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews) will be playing the leads. She is very concerned about how Mr. Banks, who represents her own father in the "Poppins" movie, will be portrayed.

The musical Sherman brothersThe musical Sherman brothers

A New Semi-Friend

The only person in L.A. who seems to break through Travers’ ice is her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti) who has a handicapped daughter and finally grows to understand that under the blustery exterior, Pamela Travers is still an injured child.

Disney driver Ralph picks up Mrs. TraversDisney driver Ralph picks up Mrs. Travers

The Premiere

After many mis-adventures, including Travers’ reluctant trip with Walt to Disneyland, the film is made and Travers decides to show up reluctantly at the premiere (she wasn’t actually invited because Disney worried that she might hate the film). Unlike in real life, we understand, Travers is won over by the movie; tearing up as she watches.

Emma Thompson as the disapproving Mrs. TraversEmma Thompson as the disapproving Mrs. Travers

Wrapping Up

If you’ve ever had a strict, negative, outspoken kinda “old-lady-bossy” teacher, you can probably see her in Emma Thompson’s portrayal of Pamela Travers. It’s just brilliant because she enacts the vulnerable, wounded little girl in an adult’s body part of the character equally as well as the stiff-lipped “meany” making you actually feel sorry for her in some scenes.

The Poppins-style aunt arrives to save the familyThe Poppins-style aunt arrives to save the family

The constant flashbacks to Travers’ childhood are just too many, jerking us out of the “present (1960’s)” action in which the “Mary Poppins” film is being developed but they are just as well-acted as “current” scenes.  Tom Hanks is believable as Walt Disney although he’s portrayed with “A Spoonful of Sugar” when the real Disney had a dark side that wouldn’t serve this film so is left out.

Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell at a premiereTom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell at a premiere

The classic songs in the movie might be family faves and there are plenty of funny moments but Saving Mr. Banks might be too slow-moving for younger kids. Teens and adults are more likely to get into the film. We go 4 stars.

Saving Mr. Banks Movie Rating: 4

Saving Mr. Banks PosterSaving Mr. Banks Poster

Saving Mr. Banks is in theaters December 13th!