Reel Reviews: Thompson doesn’t sugar-coat role

Tom Hanks is Walt Disney and Emma Thompson is P. L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks. - Disney Studios
Tom Hanks is Walt Disney and Emma Thompson is P. L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.
— image credit: Disney Studios

For 20 years Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has been attempting to get the rights for Mary Poppins from author P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson) so that he can keep his promise to his daughters to bring Mary to life on the big screen.

However, Mrs. Travers is a miserable curmudgeon and has absolutely no interest in having the Disney corporation turn her books into something whimsical, with songs and animated dancing penguins. It is only the fact that she needs money in order to keep her London home that convinces her to go to the Happiest Place on Earth, spending three weeks with Mr. Disney and his crew.

During that time, Travers reminisces about her childhood, her alcoholic father and inspiration for Mary in the first place.

Both Disney and Travers will have to come to an understanding before she is willing to sign on the dotted line.

We say, “It’s a bit sappy perhaps, but effective enough.”

HOWE: A Disney movie about a Disney icon, but not necessarily made for the younger audience. It may be a little too adult themed for the little ones to understand what is really going on, how the two stories weave together. Saying that, I found it a very interesting and it held my attention for the two-plus hours.

TAYLOR: I can’t remember the last Disney movie that wasn’t for young kids; maybe there has never been one. This is one of the more interesting aspects of this release. It’s a Disney film for grown ups.

With his weird little moustache, smoker’s cough and twinkling brown eyes, Hanks, although not really looking that much like Walt, seemingly acts like him. However, it is Thompson that steals the show in this one. Her Pamela Travers (sorry, Mrs. Travers, if you please) is an outspoken, frosty ice queen who seems to have no one to love and no one that loves her.

Through the retelling of her childhood being interspersed with her spending time at the Disney studios, we come to understand why she has the personality she has and why she is so protective of her Mary Poppins.

Thompson’s performance is probably deserving of an Oscar nomination. She says paragraphs with subtle body movements. Travers herself doesn’t actually change, nor even change her perception that Walt Disney’s film is frivolous and silly. What she does is allow room for an acceptance of the story told as such. So her character’s arc is actually quite small, but feels huge because it’s a feat to get this woman to budge an inch on anything.

HOWE: We forgot to mention Colin Farell. I was very impressed by his overall performance, from a doting father figure to his daughter to his bed-ridden alcoholic state. It’s been a long time since we have seen him sink his teeth into something worthwhile. The only fault I could find with Banks was some of the other performances weren’t as strong as Thompson’s or Farell’s.

—Taylor gives Saving Mr. Banks 4 pears out of 5.

— Howe gives it 4 chimney sweeps out of 5.

The film is currently showing at the Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.

— Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are film reviewers based in Vernon, B.C.


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