Viewed as a piece of corporate-manufactured propaganda, Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks is a perfectly enjoyable trifle; it’s affectionately told with wit and charm, and boasts a pair of indelible performances from Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. However, when taken as a reasonably accurate portrayal of the events that transpired during the tumultuous production of the studio’s classic Mary Poppins, it’s nothing but a clunky and maudlin fabrication.
At its core, this is a movie about how the flawless immortal Walt Disney (played by Hanks no less) saved a crotchety and bankrupt author named P.L. Travers (Thompson) from descending into depression and insanity by introducing her to his wide and wonderful world of family entertainment. Think of it as one of those cheesy inspirational videos that you’re forced to sit through during company retreats.
It’s testament to Thompson’s tremendous performance then that the film remains watchable in spite of the unabashed sentimentality. The actress’ complex portrayal of Travers is biting, funny, and even wrenching. The filmmakers, who include director John Lee Hancock, and writers Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, should be grateful for her talents. I certainly am.