Saving Mr. Banks Review: The Magic Behind the Magic

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Saving Mr. Banks feels like two movies. The first is the story of P.L. Travers learning to move on from her past and sell the rights to Mary Poppins to Walt Disney. The second is flashbacks to Travers’ childhood, which is essentially a gritty retelling of Mary Poppins. Guess which is the one that works?

The premise of the film has a reluctant P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) worried about what Hollywood big-shot Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) is going to do to her beloved characters. After 20 years, Disney has finally gotten her to Los Angeles (which according to her smells like chlorine and sweat) to collaborate on the film. Her rules include no music and no animation, two staples of the studio’s classic offerings.

Thompson and Hanks play off each other wonderfully as two people passionate about the same story, just hoping to see it alive in different mediums. But the issues with the film come with the flashbacks to Travers’ childhood that are overacted, soapy affairs the rudely interject on the great story of Mary Poppins being made.

Of course these flashbacks are necessary to understand Travers’ journey to where she is when the film is being made, but there are too many of them and they come at strange times. Before you know it, half the runtime is taken up by flashbacks.

But the other half of the film works incredibly well. Had it not been for the constant trips down memory lane, Saving Mr. Banks could have been one of the great movies about movies.

Instead, we have a half a well-acted film that rewardingly brings a character to a new point in her life, and a boring, disconnected build-up to the main events. Still, you get to watch Tom Hanks play Walt Disney, which is just as perfect as you might expect. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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