Who would have thought that here was a story worth telling about the making of Mary Poppins. Based on true events, it tells the story of the author of the series of books about Mary Poppins P. L. Travers and Walt Disney’s attempts to get the rights to create a motion picture. Shifting between two narratives, one being Travers’s consistent disapproval of the ideas for the movie based on her treasured creation and her distaste for anything Disney Land has to offer, the other expands on the her back story as a child in Australia and her relationship with her father.
Needless to say with this being a Disney property, it looks on its own studio very fondly as a place of magic and wonder and with Tom Hanks in the role of the big guy himself, it’s clear that Saving Mr Banks isn’t going to have anything bad to say about the studio. Even with all the edges taken off with all the sweet saccharin sentiment, The Blind Side director brings a real charm and joy, all from the love of Mary Poppins itself. Emma Thompson is the perfect choice as Travers, with her uptight demeanor who is rude and unsympathetic to everyone she meets but still maintaining an undeniable likability to her. The flashbacks to her father who is brilliantly played by Colin Farrell that begs for your compassion for her character. Farrell is the unsung hero for me. With the focus on Thompson and Hanks, two great actors on such charming form, he kind of gets sidelined when in fact he is the heart and soul of the film. Much like the film itself, he is charming, funny and playful but all the while is covering up something more tragic and Farrell is excellent. I can not think of a better choice of actor to take on Walt Disney in this film other than Hanks. He is perfect as you would expect with a touch of Willy Wonka about him.
The whole film is filled with great cast members. Bradley Whitford, B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman play the writer and composers of the classic film banging their heads against a brick wall as Emma Thompson scoffs at every idea that they come up with. Ruth Wilson turns up as Travers’s troubled struggling mother and Paul Giamatti as Ralph, Travers’ chauffeur who is on likable form warming her heart and the audiences at the same time. It is guilty of being in love with its own studio for making such a beloved classic but then again Mary Poppins is a beloved classic and its worth celebrating. It also suffers from an extended ending that drives the overt happy ending that Disney loves so much that doesn’t stop you from leaving with a spring in your step..