Saving Mr. Banks (movie review)

You see that trailer up there? Don’t watch it. It’s both misleading and sorta ruins the movie. But if you did already watch it, that’s OK – you’ll probably forget the trailer once you start watching Saving Mr. Banks because the two are soooooo far removed from each other it hardly matters. This doesn’t mean that the movie is bad (it’s quite good, actually), but what’s presented in the trailer is a lighted hearted comedic bit of entertainment history, but what you get is a ton of hard hitting drama with moments of levity in between.

It should be noted that I might be complaining a bit too much about that which the trailer reveals. The picture is called Saving Mr. Banks, after all.

Anyway, on with the review!

As I mentioned, the trailer promises a comedic look at the making of Mary Poppins, but what we get is a lot of intense drama. This is fine, and the movie handles the tone shifts from 1961 Los Angeles to 1906 Australia very well. Sometimes, when the tone shifts around in a movie (in this case from comedy to drama), the movie suffers, but it’s handled well here – I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but it certainly gets the job done.

It does not usually bother me when famous actors play famous people, but here, I found that Tom Hanks as Walt Disney wasn’t really working for me. I just couldn’t forget that Tom Hanks was Tom Hanks, and he just didn’t really look or sound much like Walk Disney, and it distracted me, but I wouldn’t say it detracted from my enjoyment of the film much. Emma Thompson, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman all have wonderful chemistry as they try to come to an agreement on the screenplay and songs. Paul Giamatti and Emma Thompson also have a great dynamic in their scenes as he drives her around LA. Meanwhile, Colin Farrell is excellent as the author’s dad, although I don’t think the journey of his character is particularly interesting as it gets redundant after a while.

That’s the problem with this picture in a nutshell: both time periods are hammering redundant story points into the ground. The difference is, in 1961, it’s fun, and in 1906, it’s not. Specifically understanding why P.L. Travers doesn’t want Mr. Banks to have a mustache in the movie isn’t especially interesting, even after you learn the reason – and this entire conflict is played out over maybe fifteen minutes (which is a decent chunk of a movie) in two time periods and ultimately doesn’t matter because he ends up with the damn mustache because Walt Disney has a mustache and he wants the character to have a mustache.

It’s briefly mentioned that B.J. Novak’s character walks with a cane because he was shot, but it never mentions why. You see, by ‘shot,’ they mean that Robert B. Sherman was shot in the god damn knee in World War 2 for charging a hill. This bugs me because the movie presents him as a bit of a no nonsense antagonist for the unreasonable P.L. Travers, who’s complex character’s reasons become clear throughout the film. Maybe, if we, the audience, understood that Sherman was thinking, "We’re not trying to save the world from oppression and war, we’re making a musical," then maybe we could understand his frustrations regarding Travers insistence that Mr. Banks not have a mustache – the audience learns why she feels this way, but none of the other characters ever do. I know, I’m all over this mustache thing, and it’s a nice memory from her childhood, but it’s not especially important – the relationship between father and daughter is well established before then.

It’s not perfect, but is a Saving Mr. Banks quality film filled with excellent performances, sets, photography… you name it. The screenplay might not be a thing of beauty, but hey, adapting real life can’t be easy if you’re not willing to make major changes. If you’re at all interested in Mary Poppins, this is a must see movie, and I think most general audiences will enjoy it, too. I’m giving it a 8 out of 10.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on March 31, 2014, in Disneyland blog posts, movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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