Saving Mr. Banks examines the tribulations in bringing something to big-screens. Usually described as ‘development hell’, the time taken in creating a movie seems an eternity. Not even the biggest cinema names are immune, which Saving Mr. Banks colourfully shows. Infused with a mix of charm and whimsy, this pseudo-biography makes conjuring a book-to-screen success seem easier than the mundane reality.
As head of the “magic kingdom”, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) is after the next family-friendly movie. He finds it with the popular book Mary Poppins. Determined to make it into a hit film, he begins the task of obtaining the rights. His dreams almost become derailed when meeting author, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson). A no-nonsense person suspicious of movie-making, Disney’s charm goes into overdrive. A strange quest transpires in bringing more magical allure onto the silver screen.
Saving Mr. Banks is a cinematic version of a soufflé – enticing on the outside but not having much bite. The creative tussle between Travers and Disney is certainly interesting and for the most part maintains attention. It ultimately fails in the way they are portrayed. Thompson’s rendition of Travers is of a strident English fop which quickly grates. Whilst this may have been what she was like in real life, it feels more of a caricature with the story resolutely marching a clichéd trajectory.
Given Saving Mr. Banks is a Disney production, its creator is never shown in anything less than a warm, friendly light. It works with Hanks’ performance as his established screen persona fits in well with Disney’s affable maestro. They blend neatly with a competent cast who play the light dramatics with ease. Scenes featuring Travers’ early life are awkwardly juxtaposed with her current and they fail to fully emotionally connect as it should.
Graced with a glossy rose-coloured sheen, Saving Mr. Banks takes a more fanciful approach in portraying true events. It has its charms although the liberties taken in its quest for clean-cut nostalgia often resembles the best of Disney’s enchanted view of life.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 6