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Klavan On The Culture

Review: Saving Mr. Banks

January 3rd, 2014 - 6:00 am

 

Saving Mr. Banks is the movie version of how the (apparently awful) P.L. Travers gave Walt Disney and his writers holy hell before she would allow them to turn her Mary Poppins novels into a film. It’s a sentimental re-invention of the true story, but it works. Sweet, good-natured, gentle and uplifting, the movie basically makes the argument that all of life should be rewritten as a Disney musical. There’s some truth to this, and the film gets at it.

As with so many films this year, the performances are unbelievably great. Emma Thompson humanizes Travers — no small thing, given her character. Colin Farrell is touching as her disastrously alcoholic father. And Paul Giamatti is absolutely wonderful in the role of her lovable chauffeur.

But after watching this and Captain Phillips in short order, I have to say: Tom Hanks may be the greatest actor/movie star of his generation. He takes the role of Walt Disney and goes right to the heart of the American self-made man. Upbeat but hardboiled, generous but also relentless, Hanks’ Disney has a deep understanding of the sources of his own success and he uses that understanding to bring others to success as well. Optimistic without being blind, he can reflect on his pain at the same time he celebrates his achievement. It may be fair to say the Disney Corporation is hagiographizing its founder here — okay. But Hanks does something so deep with the character it becomes a comment on America itself — a comment that is positive without being sentimental or dishonest. It’s a case of an American treasure portraying an American treasure.

I won’t argue that this is a great film, but it’s good heartfelt entertainment with wonderful performances. Nice holiday- or even post-holiday viewing.

*****

Cross-posted at PJ Lifestyle

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Top Rated Comments   
I am so tired Tom Hanks throwing his nutty politics in my (our) face, while insulting me for my own politics, that I have a hard time enjoying his work anymore. I see him on the screen as Tom Hanks playing somebody.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (22)
All Comments   (22)
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They say Hanks is great, he must be great, I know he's great. But ain't it funny? I can't abide him! I don't even know why, exactly, he just grates. Maybe some past movie like "Splash", or some TV show just poisoned his image within me. Or maybe he bores me.

Anyway, since I'm not a nutmeg and I don't want to be grated on, I shall avoid him henceforth and hitherto, as I always have.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I like Tom Hanks too, especially his romantic comedies (Splash and Big). But why didn't they color his hair a lighter brown so he would look more like Walt Disney. He just looked like Tom Hanks to me. It was hard to see him as Walt Disney. I had to keep reminding myself when I saw Tom Hanks..."Oh yeah, that's Walt Disney."
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I recently spent a long night watching "The Green Mile" on Spike network. Wayyyy too many commercials. But Hank's performance made me stay and watch. He has the ability that only a few really good actors have: he can make you feel the emotion he is feeling, and can do it with just his eyes. So even though I disagree with his political leanings (and won't waste time listening to it), I will watch his films. But not Sean Penn. No matter how well he can act.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Stop dissing Spiccoli!
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Justan1983
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Colin Farrell plays Emma Thompson's father?!?!
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes. Flashbacks to her childhood in Australia.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am so tired Tom Hanks throwing his nutty politics in my (our) face, while insulting me for my own politics, that I have a hard time enjoying his work anymore. I see him on the screen as Tom Hanks playing somebody.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, me too. It's unfortunate, because he's really an engaging actor. Too bad he screwed up his business with his personal stuff.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's hard to name one today who hasn't. I don't see many movies anymore, but if you do see one, you just have to block out the actor's politics. Clint Eastwood only made so many moves, you know.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The previews alone made me well up with joy. The idea of taking a tragic childhood and turning it into a magical book and then into a magical movie -- well, that's what we Americans are all about, isn't it? Whatever it is, we make it bigger and better and splashier. Of course the movie is never as good as the book. Books are always better. But movies can be pretty fun too.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I love Marry Poppins. And a moral of the story that is rarely talked about is that when the father starts paying attention to his children, wife and family like Mr. Banks did at the end of the story, his wife was happy to give up her suffrage ribbon for use as the tail of the kite.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Whoa. I've watched Mary Poppins more times than I can count, and I NEVER caught the significance of giving up her suffragette ribbon.

Well done. You win the Internet!
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I never noticed that either. But as a combat vet with PTSD, the message about being a dad to your kids always strikes a chord with me. Outstanding family movie.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Movies that distort the reality of situations should not be promoted, family friendly or not. We have enough of shape-shifting 'reality' provided by our government; we don't need more from our entertainment. If we must have the 'lying truth', then let it be clearly stated. P. L. Travers did not like Disney's rehash of her Mary Poppins; she did not well-up in tears at the premiere. Disney, like he did with practically everything he touched, redid Mary Poppins to suit himself, and make other people's work into Disney properties.

Tom Hanks is a good actor, for sure, but in this movie he plays it safe, and plays Tom Hanks, not Walt Disney.

We've had several movies this past year that are nothing more than inflammatory harangues to incite today's audiences about past events. We don't need more 'Based on a True Story' or 'Inspired by a True Story' or 'Inspired by Real Events' movies.

'Saving Mr Banks' may be family-friendly, but it's a gross distortion of the true situation - as far as we can know the truth. P. L. Travers should sue Disney - from the grave.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
She'd have to get in line behind Rudyard Kipling, who must have contemplated a thunderbolt from heaven at what Disney did to the Jungle Books.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
And he'd be in line with Sir Thomas Malory, Antoine Galland, Hans Christian Andersen, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm...

It'd be a loooooong line. :)
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, that's just it. This was the first time Walt had to painstakingly negotiate the movie rights with a living (and cantankerous) author. He'd have given up if it weren't for the fact that his daughter was nuts for Mary Poppins.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Andrew,
As Hanks himself would say he's "made over 20 movies, and 5 of them are good." ON the 15+ bad side of the ledger are "The Da Vinci Code,"and "Cloud Atlas," both pretentious and irritating. On the other side are "Cast Away" and Forrest Gump," IMHO. Also Hank's comments on racism being the cause of our WWII conflict with Japan killed the "The Pacific" series he supposedly was championing. A mature actor he may be but his knowledge of the world is childish, simplistic, and wrong. But maybe that explains his penchant for Banks, Gump, Big, and Splash like movies.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tom Hanks hit huge early on with "Splash" but then he had to spend another nine or so years until "A League of Their Own" paying his dues as though Splash never happened. I recommend two cult classics from his earlier days; the funny/tragic "Nothing in Common" with Jackie Gleason in one of his last roles playing his Dad and the sublime "Joe VS the Volcano" a magical-realism classic that you either love or hate (and his first collaboration with Meg Ryan).

Oh all right, I'll toss in "Bachelor Party" cause it's just so damn funny.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't forget "The Burbs." That one was awesome.
I don't agree with Tom Hanks politically, and sometimes he makes a horse's rear out of himself with his political statements, but I don't usually hear of him out and bellowing about it either or actually calling the US an evil empire or the free-market system slavery while profiting from it and that type of Danny Glover/Sean Penn-esque hogwash. I don't think he's overtly anti-American (especially with all the fundraising he did for the national WWII memorial that coincided with "Saving Private Ryan."). So he hasn't offended me so much that I'll quit watching his work yet.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good observation. Hanks suffers from the Hollywood disease, which seems to be virulently contagious out there, but he does show some real regard for American icons, among them the space program and Apollo 13.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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