Saving Mr Banks – Review

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Two decades have passed since PL Travers (Emma Thompson) wrote her children’s best seller Mary Poppins and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) hasn’t given up trying to buy the rights to turn it into a film.

In her London home, far from the glamour of Hollywood, Mrs Travers – as she insists on being called – doesn’t want a bit of it, but she’s low on cash and her agent persuades her at least to visit LA to discuss it.

Walt – who insists on calling her Pam – treats her to tea and cakes and leaves her in a room with his best writers and composers in the hope of creating a script that will delight generations of children.

But Mrs Travers doesn’t want any film of her book to feature any songs, let alone animation, so the scene is set for a stand-off between two creative egos for the battle to bring the world’s favourite nanny to the big screen.


If you thought Disney’s classic Mary Poppins film was feel-good, it has nothing on this. Any drama here, of course, is phoney – there is, of course, never any doubt over whether the film will get made, or indeed whether it will include songs or animation – but it’s the way the story unfolds and the clash of the egos that makes Saving Mr Banks such a pleasure.

As the cantankerous Mrs Travers – or Pam – Emma Thompson is delightfully snippy, pompous and immune to the kind of Hollywood pleasantries that would draw in all but the most cynical Brits. Yet throughout, she remains loveable and provides the most emotional moments of the film.

As Disney himself, Tom Hanks strikes the correct balance between the power hungry mogul who won’t accept no for an answer and the understanding frustrated creative who’s had to fight for everything he has, including his artistic integrity.

Supporting roles from the West Wing’s Bradley Whitford, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak also add to the fun – and create moments that will make you want to jump out of your seat to sing and dance.

Saving Mr Banks will be enjoyable for fans of Mary Poppins and enthusiasts of the mechanics of film-making alike – unusually, there’s not a sniff of Julie Andrews or Dick Van Dyke on screen, although their names are casually discarded by the supercilious writer.

While crucial to the central character’s motivation, there seems to be a little too much of her back-story, on an Australian farm with parents Colin Farrell and Ruth Wilson; the flashbacks necessarily throw PL Travers into relief, but as they become increasingly downbeat, they become a somewhat heavy millstone around the neck of a penguin that’s trying to fly.