Friday Features: 'Saving Mr. Banks' review

Friday Features: 'Saving Mr. Banks' review

Credit: Disney

This exciting film pays incredible respect to and digs much deeper into the enchanting story of “Mary Poppins,” using a cast featuring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman and more.

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by HAYDEN PITTMAN

WFAA Special Contributor

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 1:57 AM

Watching “Saving Mr. Banks” reminded me in the best possible ways of the classic Disney movies I grew up watching. It is comical, emotional, and suited for just about any audience, although it may not be enjoyable for young children with its serious, and sometimes melancholy, content.

This exciting film pays incredible respect to and digs much deeper into the enchanting story of “Mary Poppins,” using a cast featuring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman and more.

Taking place in the 1960s, Pamela “P.L.” Travers (Thompson), Australian-English-American author of a series of children’s novels involving the magical English nanny Mary Poppins, is struggling financially and has no choice but to sell the rights to her stories to filmmaker Walt Disney (Hanks). Travers is immediately put off by the idea of turning her stories into one of Disney’s fun, animated musicals, and we soon find out that there is a personal meaning and deeper, not-so-cheerful inspiration for the light and enjoyable “Mary Poppins” we know today from the Disney film. Slowly and surely, Walt Disney and a group of comical and idiosyncratic writers/composers (Schwartzman, Novak, and Bradley Whitford) translate the story into a movie with strict help from Travers and a bit of creativity.

From her first step into Hollywood, Travers is taken aback by the theatrics and is extremely skeptical about selling her story to Disney. Throughout the film, we learn that the character of Mary Poppins and related material are more to Travers than just a story; they were produced from memories of her somewhat difficult childhood. Living in a completely different lifestyle than shown in the film “Mary Poppins,” Travers’ family is having major problems, and her Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths) comes to help. The audience cannot help but notice the similarities of Mary Poppins arriving to save the day, and as Travers early years unfold, we see some of the history and meaning behind the creation of Mary Poppins and the Banks family. At the same time, we see the pain and scars that Travers carries, the cause behind the creation of these iconic characters, and reason why Travers feels the need to protect them.

The film goes back and forth between the 1960s with Travers making the film with Disney and Travers’ childhood playing out as she explains her reasoning for being so reserved with the story. There is much that is moving throughout the film, but it does a great job of creating parallels between the film “Mary Poppins,” paying homage to adored characters, and developing a more in-depth, engaging backstory into the creation of a likable Disney classic. One of the best things of this movie is the music and dialogue straight from the “Mary Poppins.” Emma Thompson is a proper, sarcastically funny, comparable version of Mary Poppins herself, and I couldn’t have picked a better person to play Walt Disney, as Tom Hanks portrays a charming, lovable, and superb character that may remind older audiences of Sunday nights with Walt Disney. “Saving Mr. Banks” is filled with other entertaining, eccentric, and endearing performances that support the film perfectly.

“Saving Mr. Banks” is a wholesome, captivating, and all-around great film for just about anyone. It’s been a while since I saw a good quality Disney film, and this one gives me hope that we will see more of these kinds of childhood stories reimagined or explained further. 2013 has been a pretty awesome year for film, and as this one came out in theaters right before Christmas amongst impressive, amusing, and graphic performances, it may have gone under the radar for some. I encourage you to put this film on your list to see.

Rated 4 out of 5 stars

“Saving Mr. Banks” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images. Running time is 2 hours and 5 minutes.


Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and hopes to pursue a future in filmmaking and screenwriting. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at haydenp@youplusmedia.com or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.

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