"Saving Mr. Banks" is an amiable but profoundly confused bit of corporate propaganda. That's to be expected, given that it's a Disney movie about Walt Disney essentially browbeating the reluctant P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the creator of "Mary Poppins," into consenting to allow the studio's adaptation of her work.
But that doesn't mean we should excuse the movie's corrupt values, just as the fine performances by Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as Disney are hardly sufficient justification to look past the single dimensions with which their characters have been constructed. Travers is seen as a nagging shrew, while Walt is a kindly visionary with fatherly charm. Talk about your revisionist history.
The midcentury Hollywood milieu is regarded with rose-colored glasses. The film, directed by John Lee Hancock, whitewashes the world of the Walt Disney Co. in 1961, when Travers arrives from London to consider signing over the rights to her Pop- pins books. The picture offers writers' room arguments, piano-side performances and scenes of Travers daring to defy the saintly Disney mystique.
It feels like it's been sprinkled with fairy dust. The sweater vests, ironed hair and proper business suits are just so. Sentimentalists will especially devour a side trip to Disneyland.
It's impossible to shake the notion that this is quackery, presenting Travers as a curmudgeon who dares to stand up for the integrity of her work against a company that thought it needed musical numbers, animated penguins and Dick Van Dyke.
Saving Mr. Banks
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell