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Whilst Mary Poppins was a bona fide hit for Walt Disney, it never sat comfortably with its author P.L. Travers and the journey it took for the book to reach the screen was an arduous task. Saving Mr. Banks follows two stories, that of an adult Travers (Emma Thompson) being wooed by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) to sign over the rights to her creation despite her constant dismissal of his advances, alongside a young Travers living in Australia and the life lessons she learnt which went into developing her written masterpieces.
Travers struggles with Disney and the world he has created, showing nothing but a stony face and upturned nose to every idea the creative team put in front of her – let alone their gifts of stuffed toys! Furthermore, the movie must contain no animation and all meetings must be recorded on tape. With every new stipulation it is incredible to know that the picture actually got made, eventually.
Being a Disney movie, it’s clear that most of the story has been sugar-coated, but everyone likes a feel good film. Travers eventually gave in to Disney and his constant barrage, obviously, but Saving Mr. Banks shows Travers almost more than willing to give up her property after another visit and a heart to heart with Walt. No where is this stated that this is a true story so there is nothing wrong with using creative licence and when the results are like this, then we can be thankful.
For Saving Mr. Banks is a delight to behold, Thompson and Hanks both shine and BJ Novak as one of the Sherman brothers is a joy. There are musical tracks from Poppins to tap along to and enough Disney visual to satisfy any Brit wanting to take a jolly holiday to the USA. The story of Travers growing up feels a little forced, all the events that led her to writing the Poppins books are depicted here alongside the story of her father’s (Colin Farrell) demise.
On the whole we have a fantastic film that not only serves to the memory of one of the classics, but one that stands alone in its own field as a potential award winner. Frank and honest, the film ends with actual audio from the tapes Travers made them record during her meetings with the Mouse House which puts the entire film in perspective and reminds us how lucky we are to have had the classic Mary Poppins on the silver screen. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!