The Nanny & the Mouse The story behind the story behind the story of ‘Mary Poppins’
Saving Mr. Banks
Starring Tom Hanks & Emma Thompson
Directed by John Lee Hancock
PG-13, 123 min.
A Walt Disney movie about Walt Disney making a Walt Disney movie, “Saving Mr. Banks” is a story behind a story behind a story that will strike a sentimental chord with anyone who remembers Disney’s 1964 hit about a certain singing, flying British nanny.
The true tale of how Uncle Walt convinced P.L. Travers, the writer of “Mary Poppins,” to sell him the rights to turn her storybook series into the now-classic movie musical is spun here into a witty, heart-tugging yarn about Disney’s unstoppable force confronting Travers’ immoveable object.
Tom Hanks plays the avuncular Disney, atop his Magic Kingdom empire in 1961 and trying to finally come through on a 20-year promise to his young daughters to take their favorite childhood character, Mary Poppins, from the storybook to the screen. The prickly Travers (Emma Thompson), the British author of the series of books featuring the English nanny with magical powers, has consistently, persistently tuned down Disney’s offers.
But now, in a financial bind, Travers finally agrees to come to Los Angeles and proceed with a film treatment as long as she’s given script approval and made part of the process. She tells Walt to his face, however, that she won’t have her fiercely guarded Mary “turned into one of your silly cartoons.”
The movie toggles between Travers’ comically difficult work with Disney and his staff, and flashbacks to her golden-glow childhood in Australia with her alcoholic father (Colin Farrell), building connections between the author, her past and her literary creation that don’t become evident until much later in the movie.
Travers hates everything, at least initially--everything about Los Angeles, Hollywood, Disney and the movie his company is trying to make. She hates Dick Van Dyke, the actor hired as the star. She hates the songs, written by the crack Disney tunesmith siblings Robert and Richard Sherman (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman). She hates the idea of dancing penguins.
Paul Giamiatti has a recurring role as the friendly chauffeur hired by Disney to squire Travers around, becoming the only American she meets to really break through her icy shell. (It’s enough to make you wonder how the same actor could be playing a heartless slave broker just a few multiplex doors down in “12 Years A Slave.”)
We all know how things turned out: Walt compromised just enough to win the tug of war, and the movie got made the way he envisioned it. Disney’s “Mary Poppins” was a smash. Critics praised it, fans adored it and it helped segue Disney from cartoons into live-action features. It won five Academy Awards.
As he did in “The Blind Side,” director John Lee Hancock pours on the emotion, so much so that it sugarcoats the shortcomings in the script, which fails to neatly, completely wrap up the rather dense details of Travers’ daddy issues and why exactly Mr. Banks, the father of the children in “Mary Poppins,” was in need of being saved.
But Thompson does a fine job, and so does Hanks, especially in a late scene together where their two characters warm to each other when he shares a story about his own hardscrapple youth, and about his own daddy issues--one that helps seal his deal.
And by golly, if you don’t get a bit of a lump in your throat during the “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” scene, well, you’ve got more ice that needs melting than even Mrs. Travers.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
South Texas Living Archives
Apple Pie readers help Julia fill in the blanks (September 21, 2016)
Cheap cell phone plans for seniors (September 21, 2016)
Come And Take It starts Sept. 30 (September 21, 2016)
Disc water pitcher (September 21, 2016)
DRT chapter plans meeting, new member class (September 21, 2016)
Get ready to grill at show barn’s barbecue cook-off (September 21, 2016)
Old Town Day seeks vendors (September 21, 2016)
Poth VFD to serve up barbecued chicken (September 21, 2016)
Run and shine at Neon Sizzle 5K (September 21, 2016)
Spots open for Community Yard Sale (September 21, 2016)
St. Mary’s Fall Festival Sept. 25 (September 21, 2016)
Support FUMC youth at barbecue ‘fun’ raiser (September 21, 2016)
Teen MOPS plans upcoming meetings (September 21, 2016)
The root of many evils (September 21, 2016)
Uncovering local legends: The grave in the middle of the road (September 21, 2016)
URBAN-15 seeks dancers, drummers (September 21, 2016)
Chicago Cub yearbooks (September 14, 2016)
Enjoy Country Music Show Sept. 20 (September 14, 2016)
How to prevent falls at home (September 14, 2016)
Krawietz family reunion (September 14, 2016)
La Vernia EMS plans Car Show (September 14, 2016)
Labatt Club donates to library, children (September 14, 2016)
Low voices and high hopes (September 14, 2016)
Lutheran Church plans Sausage Dinner (September 14, 2016)
Medicaid covers mosquito repellent to fight Zika (September 14, 2016)
Metting family plans reunion (September 14, 2016)
Non-prescription drugs — the forgotten solution to rising health-care costs (September 14, 2016)
Relay For Life meeting is Sept. 15 (September 14, 2016)
Seguin Cowboy Gathering is Sept. 17 (September 14, 2016)
Smith Gas celebrates 88 years in business (September 14, 2016)
The life of Doris Billimek Moczygemba (September 14, 2016)
Trail ride donations surpass $1M (September 14, 2016)
Visit Remembering Our Fallen exhibit in Seguin (September 14, 2016)
Who will take care of you? (September 14, 2016)
A life shaped by hard work and hunting (September 7, 2016)
After-Dinner Chocolates (September 7, 2016)
Cajun music Sept. 10 (September 7, 2016)
Donate hearing aids, glasses, equipment (September 7, 2016)
Earn a certification in native landscaping (September 7, 2016)
Enjoy EquestFest 2016 (September 7, 2016)
Getting Engaged? How to spend wisely (September 7, 2016)
Mystery box (September 7, 2016)
Nominate a nonprofit for Literacy Award (September 7, 2016)
Old medicine chest dates back to 1821 (September 7, 2016)
Professional bull riding returns to Fredericksburg (September 7, 2016)
Register to run for tacos Oct. 1 (September 7, 2016)
Road Runners plan September outings (September 7, 2016)
Still time to buy tickets for Wild Game Dinner (September 7, 2016)
Take a tour of SS museum Sept. 17 (September 7, 2016)
Take the H-E-B Slim Down challenge (September 7, 2016)
Vote for top flick at Manhattan Short Film Festival (September 7, 2016)
Welcome to The Greenline, a 43-acre linear park (September 7, 2016)
‘Cupping’ long before Phelps did it (September 7, 2016)