Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks

My Rating: 5 Stars

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images

Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, B. J. Novak

IMDB Synopsis: Author P. L. Travers reflects on her difficult childhood while meeting with filmmaker Walt Disney during production for the adaptation of her novel, Mary Poppins.

“This is what we storytellers do, we restore order with imagination” –Walt Disney, Saving Mr. Banks

It’s been a long time since I’ve cried as much in a movie as I did during Saving Mr. Banks. I’m not sure I’ve ever cried like that in another movie. It may just be my complete obsession with Disney that caused the tears, but the rest of my family had similar reactions, and while they enjoy Disney, it’s not as near and dear to their hearts. Saving Mr. Banks is incredibly moving, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and full of Disney magic that certainly inspired me.

First of all, the cast in this movie was superb. Emma Thompson was, as always, absolutely sublime, and should be nominated for an Oscar for this. I won’t be surprised if she isn’t, since this is a Disney movie after all, but one can dream. Tom Hanks was wonderful as Walt himself, giving life to a magical character, making him three dimensional, especially for those of us who weren’t alive at the same time he was. Colin Farrell was absolutely endearing and wholly heartbreaking as Travers’ father, giving a beautiful and terrible performance as the alcoholic who inspired P.L. Travers to block out most people in her life and carry the weight of her past around with her. There were plenty of other excellent performances from the the rest of the cast, who were all wonderfully chosen and gave awe-inspiring performances. No actor was less than fantastic.

Seeing a musical being written was exceedingly fun for me, as a student of musical theater. The movie shows hours and hours of work done in the studio, with songs being written, sketches reviewed, script readings, etc. Travers is highly unsatisfied for most of the process, until one moment, where the composers reveal the song “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, which results in the the first scene that drew tears from me.

The movie shows the script-writing process side by side with an account of Travers’ childhood, where you learn the inspiration for her writing. It was nice that this put together, as the past was very sad and hard to watch, but the present was filled with trips to Disneyland and the creation of musical numbers that we know and love such as “A Spoonful of Sugar”. The most beautiful scene in the movie however, is when Disney visits Travers in London, and tries to convince her that he will take care of Mary Poppins, that he doesn’t want to make her less than he is. From this scene to the end (in which you see the premier of the movie, complete with Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke look-alikes) I was crying. In fact, I was trying really hard to not audibly sob in the theater.

I highly recommend this movie to just about everyone. It is by no means a kids movie. I would say it’s for ages 14+ and that’s probably even a little young. There’s alcoholism, bad disease, attempted suicide and death in this movie; but for those who do see it, it’s an inspiring and beautiful story that I plan on adding to my collection immediately upon its release.

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