Sunday, January 5, 2014
A Tubful Of Sugar (Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks)
In theory, I really despise the idea of "Saving Mr. Banks." A Disney film about the making of an iconic Disney film? Sure. You know that that this will be a sanitized whitewashed version of the facts. as Disney is fiercely protective of anything that has to do with his legacy. I think I am one of those people who really isn't that impressed with anything Disney - I always deemed it too commercial and sappy - and as for "Mary Poppins," I have always been more a fan of Julie Andrews' other singing nanny role. But yes, I can try and relax and be objective, looking at this movie without any bias I harbor. In that end, "Saving Mr. Banks" is squarely entertaining, and looking back at the Holiday season, seems the most appropriate film to bring your kids to. (That is, if they haven't seen "Frozen" yet, and well, just scroll down to see what I felt about that)
If there is one major reason to see the film, it would be for Emma Thompson's smart performance. The script doesn't do her character, P.L. Travers any favors: she is written almost one dimensionally: as a cranky, sour old spinster of a British aunt. (Travers is actually Australian) To give her character some gravitas, Director John Lee Hancock (can you believe this is the same director who brought us "the Blind Side") cuts the action between Hollywood and earlier-day Australia to show us why Travers became the woman that he was. I prefer the Disney workhorse scenes: we get a glimpse of how the movie was developed. I wish the transition to bring warmth to Travers' character was better explored: we only believe it because of Thompson's masterful performance - she never oversells her bitterness, and a lesser actress would have run away the wrong way with that opportunity. You ask yourself, how did Disney get through to her?
The requisite happy ending is here, of course, and I have to really stretch to believe it. It has been documented that Travers disliked (to put it mildly) the final version of the movie. When they show her crying when finally watching the finished cut of the movie, it is all for the wrong reasons. As with any Disney film, the reality is doused with a tubful of sugar.