Without question Tom Hanks is one of the biggest and most beloved stars in the world. Not to mention he is one of the most consistently great actors. Along with him, Walt Disney is still one of the most loved and revered people in Hollywood history. With that said, it only makes sense that these two iconic figures would merge into one as Hanks would be cast to portray Disney on screen.
In Saving Mr. Banks, Hanks plays Walt Disney in the early 1960’s as he has been courting author P.L. Travers, who famous children’s book, Mary Poppins, Disney desperately wants to make into a major motion picture. Disney has been trying for over 20 years to get this done but has always hit a snag with Travers herself. Travers is now at a financial point where she is forced to consider it, but she wants it done her way. In an unprecedented move, Disney agrees to her demands. Unable to make everyone understand what her story means to her and how it is her way of dealing with the pain and anguish she experienced as a child, Travers reaches a point where she feels she can’t allow her beloved Mary Poppins to be exposed to the Hollywood and even bigger, Disney machine. Once Disney learns of Travers past and he has a true heart to heart discussion, in which he tells her his story and how he dealt with his difficulties as well, only then does Travers agree to let him bring Mary Poppins to life.
The film is more than just the telling of how Poppins came to be one of Disney’s most treasured films. It is the story of Travers and her childhood and her struggle with her childhood into adulthood. It is also the story, somewhat of Disney himself and how much he enjoyed bringing joy to others and how that was more than a job or empire to him.
The movie is still that and has to be treated as such. It is difficult to believe the process was so charming as it unfolded. More than likely it had ugly moments. It is no doubt romanticized in the Disney way, that doesn’t take away from the touching and heartfelt story it is.
Hanks turns out his second strong performance of the year (the first being in Captain Phillips). His portrayal of Walt Disney is a great one more in the emotion that comes across and love for his creation and desire to keep bringing the best to his legions of fans. It may not be a mirror image of Disney but there is a similarity when you look at it. This is not surprising when you discover they are distant relatives in real life.
Emma Thompson is yet another perennial great performer. Her performance of Travers is quite touching and captivating. You can see and feel everything she thinks. You are taken into her world and despite her not being the warmest or friendliest person you’ve seen you still end up rooting for her the whole time.
It’s a movie about the human spirit and the power of movies and story telling in general. Everyone has a movie or story or character that has stuck with them throughout their lives. for many people Mary Poppins was one and now we get to see how that became to be and almost didn’t come to be. It’s just another in a long line of wonderful Disney films.