And it’s not that bad.
The film stars Emma Thompson as PL Travers –the original author of Mary Poppins. Thompson plays the part with such bitterness you’d think all she really needed was a spoonful of sugar. Travers desperately clings to her precious creation, butting heads with Disney’s happiest writers and refusing to budge.
Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney himself, a family man, a Midwest man, a happiest-place-on-earth-chain-smoking man with a great mustache and greater tan. You know exactly what you’re going to get with this one: Hanks plays dress-up and toys with an iffy accent, but he can do anything, so we forgive him. He’s rounded out by pleasant sidekicks including sweethearts Jason Schwartzmann, BJ Novak, Bradley Whitford, and Paul Giamatti.
Taking place in two different time periods, we’re given the Poppins negotiations and writing process in the 1960s, as well as a gorgeous family falling apart in 1920s Australia. Colin Farrell steals the spotlight as an alcoholic father fighting a losing battle. It’s heartbreaking, but a treat to watch. He is a shining light – if not a huge draw – for the film.
Unfortunately Saving Mr. Banks is a disjointed ball of irony. It’s prime focus is the struggle between maintaining artistic integrity and letting go of the past, all while not falling victim to Disney’s song-and-dance transformation – yet that’s exactly what happens. The harsh truths of Travers’ displeasure with the final film are silenced in favor of a happy ending. It all feels a little too surreal: a bit overacted, glorified, and, well, Disney-fied.
It’s tough to determine whom the film is marketed to, exactly. Make no mistake: this is not a children’s movie. Alcoholism and abandonment are the heavy ankleweights attached to the sunny façade and took me by surprise – but as an adult, you may not care.