Review Roundup - Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson Star in SAVING MR. BANKS
Tom Hanks stars as the legendary Walt Disney alongside fellow double Oscar-winner Emma Thompson in the role of the prickly novelist in Disney's SAVING MR. BANKS.
Before actually signing away the book's rights, Travers' demands for contractual script and character control circumvent not only Disney's vision for the film adaptation, but also those of the creative team of screenwriter Don DaGradi and sibling composers Richard and Robert Sherman, whose original score and song (Chim-Chim-Cher-ee) would go on to win Oscars at the 1965 ceremonies (the film won five awards of its thirteen nominations).
When Travers travels from London to Hollywood in 1961 to finally discuss Disney's desire to bring her beloved character to the motion picture screen (a quest he began in the 1940s as a promise to his two daughters), Disney meets a prim, uncompromising sexagenarian not only suspect of the impresario's concept for the film, but a woman struggling with her own past. During her stay in California, Travers' reflects back on her childhood in 1906 Australia, a trying time for her family which not only molded her aspirations to write, but one that also inspired the characters in her 1934 book.
None more so than the one person whom she loved and admired more than any other-her caring father, Travers Goff, a tormented banker who, before his untimely death that same year, instills the youngster with both affection and enlightenment (and would be the muse for the story's patriarch, Mr. Banks, the sole character that the famous nanny comes to aide). While reluctant to grant Disney the film rights, Travers comes to realize that the acclaimed Hollywood storyteller has his own motives for wanting to make the film-which, like the author, hints at the relationship he shared with his own father in the early 20th Century Midwest.
Colin Farrell (Minority Report, Total Recall) co-stars as Travers' doting dad, Goff, along with British actress Ruth Wilson (the forthcoming films The Lone Ranger and Anna Karenina) as his long-suffering wife, Margaret; Oscar and Emmy nominee Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under, Hilary and Jackie, The Rookie) as Margaret's sister, Aunt Ellie (who inspired the title character of Travers' novel); and a screen newcomer-11-year-old Aussie native Annie Buckley as the young, blossoming writer, nicknamed "Ginty" in the flashback sequences.
Let's see what the critics have to say:
A.O. Scott, The New York Times: "Saving Mr. Banks," released by Disney, is a movie about the making of a Disney movie ("Mary Poppins"), in which Walt Disney himself (played by Tom Hanks) is a major character. It includes a visit to Disneyland and, if you look closely, a teaser for its companion theme park in Florida (as yet unbuilt, when the story takes place). A large Mickey Mouse plush toy appears from time to time to provide an extra touch of humor and warmth. But it would be unfair to dismiss this picture, directed by John Lee Hancock from a script by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, as an exercise in corporate self-promotion. It's more of a mission statement."
Ty Burr, Boston Globe: On one level, then, "Saving Mr. Banks" is a drama about the joys of selling out - or at least the inevitability - and because the movie's a Disney production, there's little irony intended. And yet the film is extremely canny and often a great deal of fun, primarily in the scenes in which Travers locks horns with the Disney-ites.
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: Directed down the middle of the road by John Lee Hancock, "Saving Mr. Banks" has even more disadvantages to overcome. For one thing, how do you make an involving film about a situation whose outcome - Travers acquiesced, the film got made - everyone knows? And, just as tricky, how do you make a genial Disney film, the kind that even Walt himself might have enjoyed, about a way-ornery woman going through one of the most difficult periods of her life?
Joe Neumaier, NY Daily News: A charming comedy-drama about the creation of the 1964 classic "Mary Poppins," this new release shows how creativity and pain can be a recipe for magic. Fairy tales, we know, are made of dark stuff under the spoonfuls of sugar.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: Mainly the film is a testament to Emma Thompson. She's swell as Travers, the Australian-born resident of London who travels to Los Angeles in 1961 for a couple of contentious weeks in the pre-production life of the film released three years later. There are other fine actors on screen, among them Tom Hanks as Disney and, in a fabricated role of a limo driver and horn-rimmed sounding board, Paul Giamatti. But Thompson's the show. Each withering put-down, every jaundiced utterance, lands with a little ping. Then she makes you cry, by gum.
Marshall Fine, The Huffington Post: Hanks brings him [Walt Disney] to life and gives him depth, wit and, above all, feeling in John Lee Hancock's film. He's a formidable character and yet this is a story about how he almost met his match in Travers, as he tried to convince her to sell him the rights to make her book,Mary Poppins, into a movie.
Mike LaSalle, San Francisco Gate: "Saving Mr. Banks" is a pleasant movie about the making of "Mary Poppins," filmed with grace and directed with care. It contains two outstanding performances, by Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell, and a performance by Tom Hanks as Walt Disney that is neither good nor bad but strange enough to be interesting.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: Don't gag. But this movie about how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) finally persuaded P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to let him make a movie of her Mary Poppins books is a tasty swig of holiday cheer. Ms. Travers (Pamela to a select few) was a piece of work. And Thompson is a spit-spot pleasure in the role, sharp-tongued and deadpan-hilarious. Mary Poppins, the flying nanny to the very British Banks family, could be stern.
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: Disney's backstage drama about how its whimsical 1964 kids' classic Mary Poppins came to be is a delight. Have they sanded off some of Mouse House maestro Walt Disney's rougher edges and added a spoonful or two of sugar to help the medicine go down? Sure. But John Lee Hancock's film is a soul-stirring treat.
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