Saving Mr Banks review: A spoonful full of sugar makes the medicine hard to take

Posted on 10 December 2013
By Rebecca Baker
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The real story of Mary Poppins, Saving Mr Banks, lives up to an expected sugar coated standard of total twee and over the top acting.

As P. L. Travers’ (Emma Thompson) career is on its last flight only a spoonful of sugar can cure her from dried up sales.

After 20 years of pre-production negotiations with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), she must be persuaded to give up the screen rights for the novel and her haunting past.

Its 1961 and a solitary Travers dreams of her loving father, the inspiration behind her patriarchal character in the book. Her constant flashbacks in Australia provide a darker background to Mary Poppins.

With a father struggling with alcoholism and her mother on the edge of breaking point the family call their Mary Poppins, Aunt Ellie, to save her family.

The ability to preserve her father in a good light becomes the ultimate battle with Disney’s ‘obscene’ imagination.

Director John Lee Hancock’s idea of using Travers’ past as a counter perspective for looking at the inspiration behind her story is another way of extinguishing one of our favourite childhood films… like when we realised the inspiration behind Alice in Wonderland was drugs.

Travers is welcomed to the city of angels by her script editor Don DaGradi and the Sherman Brothers. But soon they realise that working with her will be no walk in the park, having to deal with her constant rejections about Disney-fing her novel.

Although Travers has a headstrong opinion about the portrayal of her characters, Thompson’s acting is too sugar-coated for this character.

With moments of exaggerated poshness and attempts at emotional turmoil, it’s almost as if Thompson is trying to become one of Disney animated damsels, incapable of making their own decisions without the help of whimsical others.

Although the narrative is based around the idea of Disney obtaining the rights and their working relationship, Hank’s screen time is less than expected, only making an appearance a couple of times.

The change in Hanks’ tone toward the end of the film shows this iconic man in an uglier light, only obsessing about the film and not considering the emotions of its writer, which again what the whole film is revolved around.

Two years before his death in 1966 surely it’s about time that made a film about this prolific filmmaker, but to use him so little in a film about him seems arbitrary.

Disney’s complicated past is only used in the resolution of the film; a quick and easy idea for the screenwriters to use in solving the film’s narrative.

Saving Mr Banks, a highly anticipated biopic, sadly falls from the sky with a crash into a syrupy mess of bland and pointless storyline.

Hancock has no real interest in Mary Poppins or the story of its production but focuses on how our beloved nanny was not made from the imagination, but of a child’s traumatic past in witnessing alcohol abuse and depression…supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.