March 24, 2014
Here is a second opportunity to share the gift that keeps-on-giving-family-entertainment: Mary Poppins and the newly released Saving Mr. Banks. (Last Christmas, we recommended the Mary Poppins Blu-ray and Saving Mr. Banks theater tickets as an ideal present.) The latter movie is about making the former movie - a perfect pair.
This Hollywood narrative indulges in Walt Disney's pursuit of writer P.L.Travers' consent to film her eternally popular and enduringly timeless children's book. The Mary Poppins series mesmerized his daughters and young English speaking readers on four continents.
She is the magical nanny who drifted into the lives of the Banks family. Saving Mr. Banks is the Disneyfied interpretation of Travers (the pseudonym for the Australian writer Helen Goff), and her rancorous relationship with Hollywood. Travers was a veritable bitch (the only apt appraisal of this irascible woman).
Award-winning infectious Emma Thompson depicts Travers as a pain-in-the-derriere demi-gentile writer, not as the pain-in-the-ass she was. Since Travers herself recorded 39 audio hours of her interactions with Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) and his crew while making the movie Mary Poppins, we know that the real-life author was more intolerable and unlikable than this quasi-biography depicts. Meanwhile, Walt Disney's uncanny genius, unbridled enthusiasm and unimaginable patience transfers comfortably from life to film.
The bio-flic includes flashbacks to Travers' childhood and especially her loving devotion to her alcoholic father, (played by Colin Farrell). He inspired the "Mr. Banks" character in her Mary Poppins series (and hence the movie title).
Nothing in the film reveals believable reasons for her vitriolic temperament nor her contempt for humanity. The truer story of the father-daughter bond is best left for those English directors who are adept at intense artsy films that explore society's darker side. Thompson and Hank's cinematic charisma gloss over the historical reality to make an appealing movie.
Saving Mr. Banks is one of the too-many polished gems from Walt's hometown of Hollywood considered for Oscar's 2013 endorsement. In a year of exuberant film making, this likable well-executed film by Director John Lee Hancock (of the prized The Blind Side), is deservedly award-worthy and definitely watch-worthy.
Colorful Extra Content
The best segment features Hollywood-handsome Hancock's tour through Disney movie history and Disney's historic Studios. He "interviews" past and present players that culminated in making Saving Mr. Banks.
"Let's Go Fly a Kite" is an emotional tribute to Robert and Richard Sherman who wrote Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and other super-catchy-extra-audacious songs for Mary Poppins.
And there are the de-rigueur deleted scenes.
"Missing from the mix are scenes from Mary Poppins. Extras on the Mary Poppins Blu-ray included visual quotes from Saving Mr. Banks. Why not enrich these Extras with a favor-in-kind?
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Rachel Griffiths and Kathy Baker
Length: 2 hours and 5 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2:40:1
5.1 DTS-HDMA and DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital
5.1 Dolby Digital
5.1 Dolby Digital
English SDH, Spanish and French