Everybody has at least one film they’ll never forget because of where they saw it, who they saw it with, or how deeply its themes resonated with them, and for me, that film is Saving Mr Banks. And not just for one of those reasons, but for all three of them.
As if seeing a private preview screening of this wonderful film wasn’t fortunate enough, I was privileged to see it two days before whisking the family off to Anaheim to visit Disneyland in person. My fellow critics knew this, and by the time the screening was over we were all squeaking with excitement at the thought of me walking through those same gates that Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) escorts Mary Poppins author, PL Travers (Emma Thompson), through in the film.
The movie, of course, concerns Disney’s acquisition of the film rights to Travers’ cherished novel, but much like Mary Poppins herself, Travers isn’t so easily budged. Disney must work his famous brand of magic to understand the true significance of who Mary Poppins really is, and why PL Travers is so reluctant to let her fly solo. The journey is a telling one.
The film opens in Maryborough, Queensland, Travers’ birthplace, then follows her through a series of notable childhood flashbacks, mostly concerning the relationship between Travers and her adored father (Colin Farrell). Her experiences reveal much of how she came to bring Mary Poppins to life when she later settled in London, England, and the reasons behind her reluctance to see her work adapted to screen. The gradual unveiling of this is what makes Saving Mr Banks so special, especially when you come to realise the dual meaning of the film’s title.
Emma Thompson is marvellous as the curt, sharp-tongued Travers, and Hanks is superb as the legendary Walt Disney. Costume and production design are both outstanding, the script is snappy and hilarious, the visuals are glorious and the tone is genuine and warm-hearted. Moving and affecting with only a few spoonfuls of sugar, Saving Mr Banks is a must-see family film that, like Mary Poppins, is practically perfect in every way.
See it twice, like I did, and if you can follow it up with a visit to Disneyland then you won’t get a more supercalifragilisticexpialidocious trip down Cherry Tree Lane than that. Just don’t expect Walt Disney to be there waiting for you at the gate (Disney, a word please.)