There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Saving Mr. Banks. Due to that, I tried to reserve my judgment of the film until I had actually seen it, especially since some of the complaints were coming from people who hadn’t even seen the film (and said as much while complaining about it).
As some of you may know, P.L. Travers—the author of the original Mary Poppins novel—was none too excited to have Walt Disney trying to buy the rights to her book. She didn’t like “those silly cartoon animations” he was making, and she didn’t think her book was a good fit for Disney’s style of film making. Those are certainly valid points, especially since the novel she wrote and the movie Disney eventually made have only a few things in common. Disney deviated significantly from the original story.
However, that’s what film makers do. Following a novel strictly when adapting it to film will make a very boring film. Some of that process of adaptation was shown in Saving Mr. Banks, and I think Emma Thompson did an admirable job portraying the conflict which certainly must have been brewing inside Travers. Tom Hanks also did a great job capturing Walt Disney as a person and portraying this icon of American animation and film history.
The Sherman brothers (portrayed by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) added a bit of charm to the film as it showed the frustration they felt due to Travers feedback about their songs. Novak and Schwartzman really clicked as the musical duo made famous by Disney in many of his studio’s films.
Colin Farrell gave a great performance depicting Traver’s father as he tried to provide for his family and be involved in their lives while also battling alcoholism. Having known a couple people who had issues with alcoholism—and how desperately they wanted to give it up while simultaneously fighting the incessant craving for it—I thought the film really did a good job showing that battle and how it impacts the person fighting the battle as well as all those around them.
My favorite character, however, was one made up for the film: the driver assigned to Travers during her stay in Los Angeles. Ralph (played by Paul Giamatti) brought to the film a character with which the audience could identify. He was a loving and down-to-earth father dealing with a hard situation at home, but he always smiled and always looked forward to the time he could spend there with his daughter. While not one of the real historical bits in the film, it really helped with the story.
While some of the criticism of Saving Mr. Banks is valid, most is just over-hyped hysteria because the film doesn’t stick directly to the actual events as they happened. This didn’t bother me so much because the film has not ever been promoted as a documentary; rather it’s simply based on actual events. On top of that, the film was very enjoyable and interesting, giving me characters which clicked and a snappy plot which kept things moving along.
I very much enjoyed Saving Mr. Banks. Regardless of the flaws of the film on the historical accuracy front, it was a good and entertaining film. I would be very much interested in seeing an actual documentary about the real story depicted in the film, but even still, I will continue to enjoy this film, little warts and all. I highly recommend it.
Release Date: December 13, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
MySF Rating: Four point five stars
Family Friendliness: 100%
Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (binge & social drinking, smoking)
Language: 1 (minor expletives)
Violence: 1 (fisticuffs, death)