HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Saving Mr. Banks
HTS Overall Score:84
“Mary Poppins” is, in my opinion, Disney’s crowning live action achievement. As a film, it stands unparalleled as children’s movie, live action fantasy , and family movie extraordinaire. Blending mesmerizing music with Disney magic, it has been a staple in many homes’ Disney collection for over 45 years. The question is: how do you make an accurate movie about a movie already made? In this case, you don’t. “Saving Mr. Banks” is a wonderful family movie, but if you’re going in expecting an accurate representation of the real life events, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. What happened here is Disney doing what they do best, taking a story and adding just a dash of magic, a squirt of fantasy and just a spoonful of sugar to make the reality go down. “Mary Poppins,” as written by P.L. Travers, was a much darker and different book than the on screen presentation. The singing, dancing, and mischievous mayhem was absent from the pages, but Disney did the unthinkable. They actually made a movie that rivaled the book for its popularity and love, especially bucking the stigma that “the book is always better.” Just like the adaptation of the book to film, the real story of P.L. Travers and Walt Disney’s experience together is twisted and “Disneyfied” into a magical fantasy. Coming from a historical background, the movie is about as inaccurate as can be, but from a storytelling standpoint, the film holds true as a fantastic, magical companion piece to one of the most beloved fantasy stories Disney has ever told.
Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has been trying to get P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to allow him the rights to make the novel, Mary Poppins, into a full length feature Disney film. To date, she had turned him down time and time again, refusing to sign over her "family" to someone who would butcher her characters on the silver screen. Finally, she resigns to the fact that she is out of money and agrees to allow “Mary Poppins” to be transcribed on film with one condition: that she be allowed the final say in the script and casting decisions. Traveling to America, she and Walt soon start to butt heads, with Mrs. Travers poo-pooing every creative decision that Walt and crew come up with. Frustrated beyond belief, Walt Disney struggles to find a middle ground where the film can be made and Mrs. Travers nitpicking would be satisfied.
On the flip side of the coin, we seem Mrs. Travers agonizing over ever decision being made as she struggles with handing over her precious creations over to another person. The only real “friend” that she makes is the Disney limo driver, Ralph (Paul Giamatti), is the only one who seems to care about the persnickety woman in this strange country. The film switches back and forth between two time periods, melding the present day situation with the past that has shaped Mrs. Travers opinions on her characters, and life in general. The film shifts seamlessly between the past and present during every scene change, never jarringly so, but with smooth precision, giving us the chance to peak into the reasons and pulling back the layers of the onion, so to speak. As these scenes become more and more frequent, the crux of her trepidations is brought to light and laid bare, allowing her to get past her own history and allow Mary Poppins to below to the future.
The film is expertly cast with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson at the lead. Every character, from Ralph the Limo driver, to Collin Farrell and Ruth Wilson as P.L. Traver’s parents, are simply flawless, allowing a sweet and well-crafted family story to unfold. My first thought when hearing of the film was that this was going to be another Tom Hanks vanity piece, but in reality, Tom blends seamlessly into the other supporting characters and allows Emma Thompson to completely steal the show. Portraying the famed author as a prim and proper woman, with no flexibility whatsoever, Emma peels back the layers of pain to show us the hidden character in this tale, tying what happened to her family in Australia to the present old maid that she is here, and allowing those prime and proper walls to fall down around her and allowing Mary Poppins to take flight to the world.
As I mentioned earlier, the movie is not very accurate to reality at all. Huge deviations have been taken in the storytelling, and what’s left is really almost purely fictitious. Normally I would take offense at this, but the creators very obviously didn’t want to a take a documentary style take on the original events, but instead created a story within a story. Allowing the movie to turn into a fictitious background to a fictitious story, all wrapped up in Disney Magic and joy. The movie itself really isn’t a kid’s film, and I mean that in a very positive way. Most kids and family members will enjoy the story, and have a kick watching it, but the real target audience is for those of us who grew up with “Mary Poppins," those adults who still remember the joy and happiness that the original film brought each and every one of us, with incredibly memorable songs and a enough quotable lines to fill a short novel. “Saving Mr. Banks” may not be a timeless classic that will stand the test of time, but it is a powerfully movie fairy tale that allows us to once again tap back into that Disney universe that we grew up and loved as a child.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=15073[/img]As usual, Disney graces us with an incredibly well done 2.40:1 AVC transfer. While I may gripe at a few of their restoration methods, Disney stands neck and neck with Sony for crystal clear day and date features. Shot with a mixture of filming styles, it shifts between the bright and colorful modern times and the overly boosted and yellowed days of the early 1900 era Australian country side. Blacks are rich and deep with no apparent flaws and the colors are rich and saturated. The blues and reds and greens of the 1964 Disneyland Theme park are flawless and richly textured, while the Australian countryside scenes tend to be a bit more filled with dusky yellows, brounds and greys, giving it a sort of surreal tone in those instances. Contrasts are solid and tight in the modern scenes with some boosted white levels in the flashbacks, which seems to be by design. Fine detail is incredibly well done, allowing us to see every fiber and flaw of those old tweed suits and the wrinkles around aging, Tom Hanks eyes. Stylistic and pretty to a fault almost, I have to say that Disney has done it once again.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=15074[/img]The English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that Disney gives us is surprisingly robust for a dialogue centered film. The surrounds are use actively as the musical score flows throughout the film and envelopes the listener in a cocoon of detailed auditory bliss. The dialogue is natural and never muted with some great dynamic range as we hear the roar of an airplane of the rumbling of tires in busy California traffic. LFE is mild, but very much present, adding a depth to the film that slides under the radar while not being anemic in any way. A lot of the movie is up in the front, but the level of minute details that bleed through into the other channels is never disappointing in the least. Very well done and I couldn’t be happier with the mastering.
• The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to the Present
• "Lets Go Fly A Kite"
• Deleted Scenes
Sweet and mesmerizing, “Saving Mr. Banks” was a genuine surprise for me. I was sure it would be a fluff piece, but turned into a moving family film that will please family members alike and bring us back to that age when we all sang along with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke as children. With stunning audio and video scores, the only real drawback is the anemic special features, which in and of itself is only midly annoying, but deeply saddening to those of us who have been with Disney since the beginning of the home video market and seen the copious amount of extras that they used to bestow on us. Either way, the movie is well worth the ticket price and a definite recommend in my books.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamotti, Colin Farrell
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Written by: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 127 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Buy Saving Mr. Banks Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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