Note: I was invited to LA on an expense-paid press trip by Disney, which included access to lots of behind-the-scenes information about Saving Mr. Banks as well as a screening of the movie in Walt Disney’s personal screening theater (how cool is that?). All thoughts and opinions are my own. This review is spoiler-free!
Setting the stage: In 1961, Walt Disney invited “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers to his studio in Los Angeles to discuss, in person, his continued interest in obtaining the movie rights to her beloved book and character—a pitch he first made to her in the 1940s. Still hesitant and disinterested after all those years, Travers wanted to tell the Hollywood impresario to go fly a kite but with dwindling sales of her books and a bleak economic future looming, P.L. Travers said yes and embarked on a two-week sojourn in Los Angeles that would ultimately set the wheels of the beloved film in motion.
I had no idea that I would love Saving Mr. Banks so passionately. As wonderful as the story sounded from the trailers that I had seen over the past few months, I was not excited about seeing Walt Disney portrayed by Tom Hanks. I even went so far as to vocally express my disappointment at Disney’s choice for casting Tom Hanks in the role. However, I got through the movie (I’ve seen it twice now) without giving Hanks a second thought. All of the aspects of the movie – from the actors to the script to the music and everything else about it – worked so seemlessly together that I never thought twice about the actor playing Walt Disney.
What I loved about Saving Mr. Banks:
The story is top-notch. It’s also not what you’d expect, even when you know the basic story line. It is magical, but down-to-earth. You will laugh, sing, and cry. I found myself falling in love with unlikely characters, like Ralph the chauffeur, who ended up being my favorite secondary character. I want to know Ralph. Mary Poppins’ author, P.L. Travers, was phenomenally played by Emma Thompson, and though Travers was a difficult woman to work with, I loved the role and couldn’t imagine anyone doing it better than Thompson.
I loved the flashback scenes of P.L. Traver’s childhood, which is almost like a separate movie inside a movie. It’s a tender and heartbreaking story that is fantastically done.
In the movie, Mrs. Travers has grown into a bitter, stubborn woman who has no interest in selling the rights to her story of Mary Poppins. In fact, she only agrees to travel to California to meet with Walt Disney because she is out of money. Still, the unwavering woman makes Disney’s 20-year-long attempt to make mary Poppins into a movie quite the challenge.
Both my husband and I expected a lot of Disney “magic” throughout the movie. Instead, we were surprised by a very serious film. And while it was certainly full of magical moments, plenty of music, and several laughter-inducing scenes, be prepared for something deep. This movie will move you.
Why is Saving Mr. Banks rated PG-13?
There is some very minor swearing in the “modern day” portion of the movie (you’ve probably heard Walt Disney swear in one of the trailers, so it’s not a surprise) but that certainly does not make the movie PG-13. I’m guessing that the movie received that rating because of Mrs. Traver’s father’s alcoholism and the attempted suicide of one of the characters. There are a few flashback scenes that could be difficult for young children to understand. I am completely comfortable letting my own children watch the movie without hesitation, though I would recommend that parents are prepared to have a discussion with their kids about alcoholism and suicide.
Who should see Saving Mr. Banks?
I recommend that EVERYONE see Saving mr. Banks. I anticipate that this movie (and Emma Thompson for her starring role) will end up winning numerous awards. I’ve already seen it twice – it was just as good the second time!) and would gladly pay to see it again a third time with the rest of my family. See it whether or not you’ve seen Mary Poppins recently (I promise that you’ll WANT to run out and see Mary Poppins soon after you’ve seen Saving Mr. Banks, though!).
Warning: Be prepared to cry. Bring plenty of tissues. I sobbed through the entire movie the first time I saw it (and the second time, I knew what was coming, so I got choked up even earlier!). And then be prepared to wake up singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite!” for days afterwards. And that’s a good thing. This is a movie I want to see over and over again!
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SAVING MR. BANKS opened in theaters limited on December 13th and opens wide on December 20th!
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