Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.
Earlier today, I went to see Saving Mr. Banks with my family, and I decided to do something a little bit different with this blog post and write a review on it for two reasons.
The first reason I wanted to review the movie is because it’s based on the true story of P.L. Travers giving Walt Disney the rights to make a movie adaptation of her book series, Mary Poppins. I’m usually suspicious of movies based on real life events because you never really know how much of it is true and how much of it isn’t. If you’ve seen movies like Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor or James Cameron’s Titanic (or even the two animated rip-offs of Titanic), then you’ll probably know what I mean. And in many cases, I’m still a little suspicious of how much of the movie is true and how much of it isn’t.
The second reason was because of Mary Poppins. We all know about Julie Andrews’ performance of this character in the early 1960s, and it stuck with us as we got older. Even the Nostalgia Critic listed Mary Poppins as one of his very first childhood icons. As a result, I wasn’t sure of how Saving Mr. Banks would change my perspective on a childhood favorite. I mean, a lot of us are familiar with how the author was initially reluctant to have a film adaptation of her work, how she hated the results, and how she never allowed Disney to have anything more to do with Mary Poppins.
So with two parents, a brother, and a sister-in-law, I watched the movie. And it’s about Disney (played by Tom Hanks) trying to persuade Travers (played by Emma Thompson) to allow the company to make a movie based on her work. Is it even worth going into more detail? We all know she relents in the end, and we all know that there’s a movie based on her books. In a sense, though, I guess you could say that this movie explains what made her relent, as well as an apology to her for not respecting her wishes.
Was it 100% good? Eh…in all honesty, I’d say 85%. Most of it worked, but there were a lot of details about the movie that just didn’t sit right with me and my family. My mom thought B.J. Novak, who played Bob Sherman, wasn’t quite the right actor for the role. And I have to agree. I’m sure he’s a good guy in real life, but his acting was a little stiff in this movie. I had no idea of the kind of person Bob Sherman was in real life, and Novak didn’t really clarify anything for me. There were also a few plot holes that I didn’t think had been explained enough. For example, Travers doesn’t want her book to be a musical. But then we see scenes of her either approving or disproving of songs written for the movie. Okay, so what made her okay with it in the first place? We don’t know. It’s never explained.
The biggest concern was the historical accuracy. Even though songwriter Richard Sherman (who worked on writing the songs for Mary Poppins) was a consultant for the movie, I felt like parts of the story were over-dramatized, or slightly changed. And since half of it focused on Travers’ childhood—which made sense, because it was the biggest influence on Travers’ book series—it was hard to tell how much of it was true and how much of it wasn’t. Honestly, I can’t help but wonder how Travers would feel watching Saving Mr. Banks.
Despite the downsides of the movie, we really did enjoy it. Accurate? Probably not entirely. But it was still a good story, and we liked it. Additionally, there were a handful of witty moments. For example, towards the beginning of the film, after Travers pointed out that the word ‘responstible’ isn’t a word, we get a shot of one of the Sherman brothers hiding the score for ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’ Freaking hilarious. I loved it. And there was also a fair share of emotional scenes—not just from a storytelling point of view, but also from a Disney fan point of view. My sister-in-law says she started tearing up in a flashback of Travers’ childhood when the family is at a fair and something happens to her father. But what got me was a scene where Disney is sitting outside after a rough day with Travers, and all of a sudden he hears Dick Sherman (played by Jason Schwartzman) working on the song ‘Feed the Birds,’ which is said to be Disney’s favorite song, as well as a song that had been played at his funeral.
Here’s what I liked the most about Saving Mr. Banks. For one, it touched on what a medium transfer is supposed to do. A movie based on a book isn’t going to follow it perfectly and still be a good movie; it just isn’t possible. Movies and books use very different tools for storytelling, so in order to work, they can’t line up perfectly. But when you make a medium based on something else, you have to at least understand the heart of the original source and explore it. Without the crux of that original source, you might as well kiss your project good-bye. Without giving too much away, according to Saving Mr. Banks, both Disney and Travers eventually understood what the heart of the story of Mary Poppins was. It wasn’t the children, Jane and Michael Banks. Heck, it wasn’t even Mary Poppins herself. It was Mr. Banks, the namesake of the movie, as well as a character who was influenced by a character in Travers’ life. I can’t touch on that more than I have for the sake of spoilers, but I will say that there was a reason they called the movie Saving Mr. Banks; you just have to get to the end in order to understand why. And the ending is one of the best. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It’s powerful, it’s emotional, it’s almost guaranteed to make you cry, it gives you a deeper understanding and appreciation for Mary Poppins, it’s just perfect.
Overall, this movie probably wasn’t the best that I’ve seen, and I’m still left with a lot of questions. But I am glad that I got to see it, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for the DVD release. I’ll give it 8 stars out of 10 and say give it a watch. Just come armed with a box of tissues, long sleeves, and/or waterproof mascara.