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by
Andrew Klavan

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January 3, 2014 - 9:21 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.

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Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

Andrew Klavan’s newest novel is Nightmare City.

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Sorry, Andrew, Tom Hanks is not a great actor in this schmaltzy rewrite of history. Good family film, okay. But let's not pass it off as anything but the type of film that Disney has put out over the years - even with his retelling of the fairy tales, he has to disneyfy them. It's the Wonderful World of Disney brought to the big screen.

Tom Hanks plays Tom Hanks, not Walt Disney. I dare say that P. L. Travers turned over in her grave several times as this movie was being prepped, filmed, and distributed.

Yes, I know, from comments elsewhere that many disagree with me. But if you're going to make a movie, then at least stick to the reality of the situation and not create whole-cloth treatment of the subjects. We get enough rewrites of historical fact now that it's hard for some to distinguish between the real and the imaginary. Examples, you say? Surely, you've seen enough movies to know what I'm referring to. A viewer knows they're in for a revised version when they read on screen - 'Inspired by a True Story' or 'Based on a True Story' or 'Suggested by Real Events.'

P. L. Travers had a right to dislike Disney's film version of her Mary Poppins - the chief one being that it has nothing to do with the work she wrote - it's Disney's work. He now gets credit for her work. And the ending of the movie is total fabrication. She should sue him - from the grave.
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