Not Needing to Save Mr. Banks: A Review

20 Dec

SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS. (When you don’t know what to say… But seeing as this is a movie review, I’ll do my utmost “to leaf through lengthy lexicons to find the perfect word.”)

Disney geeks (such as myself) will drool over John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks. The story revolves around Mary Poppins author, PL Travers, and her life surrounding her decision to give Mary Poppins rights to Walt Disney for production.

The incomparable Tom Hanks IS Walt Disney. I wonder how many hours Hanks devoted to studying, analyzing, and observing archived footage of 1960’s Disney. He did a phenomenal job, getting every little detail that D23 members would catch. Hanks presents an amiable showman with a soft side, no doubt the result of watching personal interviews along with Disney’s TV spots from the 1950s and 1960s.

Emma Thompson is the real star of this movie, however. Thompson’s Travers had such emotional depth in a character written too snarky at times not to be a caricature. Thompson made sure to present the author in a well-rounded manner when going for the sass would’ve been an easier option, especially given the pendulum of emotions written for Travers. 

Like any Disney movie (especially the live-action films), it can get a bit cheesy and overworked. Flashbacks retell Travers’ childhood and what presumably led her to create her flying nanny. I’m sure her back-story was romanticized to boost conflict and move along what would normally be a droll plot. However, it’s Disney. It’s a live-action movie. Why would I expect it to NOT be romanticized?

What Disney fanatics will love are the subtle (and not-so-subtle) Easter eggs hidden throughout the movie. The slight animosity between the Sherman brothers. The posters of the Florida project on Disney’s office wall toward the end of the film. The fact that Disney’s real signature was used in the opening Disney logo. The faithful recreation of the Mary Poppins premier at the Chinese Theater. And if you’re a huge Disney buff, STAY FOR THE CREDITS. The real archived recordings of Travers’ interactions with the production staff are played. They are hysterical and you can see why Disney had his hands full with obtaining the rights from Travers.

The problem with these Disney nerd-moments is that Hancock assumes too much of his audience at times, hence some of the “preachy” and self-congratulatory moments mentioned by other (aka professional-people-who-watch-movies-for-a-living) reviewers. Hancock assumes that his audience understands the revolutionary ripples surrounding MP’s production. “Feed the Birds” was Walt’s favorite song. The film is dedicated to Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s eldest daughter, who died as production was wrapping up. The animatronic robin Mary Poppins holds in her hand near the Banks’s window was the first use of animatronics in a feature film. Mary Poppins was one of the final films Walt saw through to completion before his death. Hancock assumes his audience knows all of these little quirks and mistakenly presents an unfair fight that weakens Travers’ character.

Overall, the film was amazing. I’ll probably be seeing it again. It’s cheesy and heart-warming and sad and full of emotions that should be predictable for a live-action Disney movie. However, I still get bowled over anyway… It’s a great family film. Take the kids. Enjoy it, then go watch Mary Poppins immediately after. 

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