IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 125 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Pamela Travers or, as she prefers to be known, P.L. Travers, is the writer of a series of books about a magical nanny called Mary Poppins. For fifteen years, Walt Disney has been trying to get Pamela to relinquish the rights to her books. Now, Pamela, on the verge of losing her home in England, travels to Hollywood for two weeks at the request of Disney, who thinks he may change her mind, but Pamela proves to be very difficult and disagrees with the way her character and stories have been sweetened…..
For some reason I wasn’t too keen on Mary Poppins as a child, and even now am still more of a Bedknobs And Broomsticks person, though I did warm to the film in time. Saving Mr. Banks is primairly about the battle of wills between two stubborn people: the author who wants to keep the integrity of her work and hates to see it changed or dumbed down, and the studio head who sees the potential in the material for a hugely popular family movie but feels certain alterations are required. Saving Mr. Banks, made by Disney, is good enough that it allows to understand both points of view, and the 1961 scenes are mostly really good, full of warmth and humour. Scenes where Pamela is played the iconic songs by the Sherman Brothers are the highlights, especially a joyous if totally improbable bit where Pamela find herself dancing to Let’s Go Fly A Kite. However, the film also feels a need to shoehorn in, and often rather randomly, lots of flashbacks to Pamela’s childhood, and these deadly serious scenes look and feel in every way that they are from a different film. They attempt to tell the inspiration for Mary Poppins, leading to a very forced crying scene at the end which seems to imply that Pamela exorcised a certain family issue by watching the film.
In fact, the whole affair has been sweetened with more than a spoonful of sugar which didn’t make the film go down in a most delightful way for this critic. Emma Thompson unsurprisingly plays the eccentric, cantankerous Pamela very well, but Tom Hanks neither looks, sounds and acts like Uncle Walt: I just didn’t buy he was the character for a moment. Meanwhile the blandly ‘middle of the road’ script of course avoids many interesting details like certain ‘unconventional’ details of Pamela’s life. Saving Mr. Banks is a pleasant watch that seems to be satisfying many people, but I found it often false and awkward.