Plot: What’s it about?
Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks. The film tells the story of bringing Mary Poppins to the big screen. Emma Thompson plays P.L. Travers (Author of the book). She isn’t overly fond of the idea, but since she’s having some financial issues, she agrees. Her one caveat? She wishes to be involved with the production of the film. It’s hear that sets up the basic premise behind the film. There are various story threads here, including several flashback sequences showing Traver’s childhood. Her father (played by Colin Farrell) drinks too much, but it’s clear she has a close relationship with him. Throughout the film, we see these flashback sequences and this became a problem for me. I felt it kept getting in the way of the main focus of the film. If this were told in a more linear fashion then I might be more accepting of it, but the story keeps shifting around too often. Every time I was close to giving in and going with it, the film kept shifting gears. I found the best moments to be between Hanks and Thompson. Both of them do great in their respective roles. There’s an especially effective sequence late in the film where Walt gives insight into his childhood. Hanks plays the scene perfectly and it says quite a bit about Walt Disney. Travers is more than protective of her material and I enjoyed the scenes where she’s interfering with the production more than she should and is surprised when she learns that the penguins will be animated and not live ones.
After doing some research I learned that the film is mostly accurate, but also took some liberties (as to be expected). For one: Walt Disney was a heavy smoker (he died of lung cancer), but there’s only a single sequence of him putting out a cigarette. Supposedly Hanks wanted to show more of this so it would be an accurate portrayal, but greater heads prevailed and the smoking was essentially omitted, saved for the aforementioned sequence. I can understand the hesitation as this IS a Disney film, but I can’t imagine it appealing to younger audiences as much as an older audience. The other details are spot on, however. Director John Lee Hancock does a great job of recreating an earlier, simpler time. The production design is nearly flawless and the classic cars and overall look of the 1960’s. Sadly, outside of that and the two central performances from Hanks and Thompson, I can’t say the film did much for me. It was fun to see Walt Disney as the star of a feature film, but the story was too slow and plodding for my taste. I think a tighter, more focused narrative would’ve benefited this more. Still, there are enough qualities here that I think the film is worth checking out once. I’d advise a rental, however, as this seems to lack strong replay value.
Video: How’s it look?
One thing about this film is that it certainly is visual. It might not seem like the most obvious, but it’s a cheery, colorful film at times and the transfer serves it well. The image is AVC encoded with a 2.40:1 ratio. Sharpness was strong and consistent throughout and the print pristine. Details on clothing and throughout the Disney set seen in the film were immaculate. The shiny classic cars also show up strong here with reflections coming through nicely and rich details and colors. I enjoyed looking at some of the older suits and styles from the 60’s and few pieces of fuzz could be seen on several of the garments. This is a great transfer, no issues here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Also strong (though not as flashy) is the DTS HD track. It provided an involving experience, but since this is a more dialogue driven film don’t expect tons of background use. The few instances where the rear channels were needed, they delivered. There is some on-set action and Walt and Travers walking around the Disney studio that took advantage of the track. I feel pleased with the track here. It serves the film as it should.
Supplements: What are the extras?
We only get a few features here, but the featurette is well worth checking out. Inside the package is an insert for a digital copy code.
- Deleted Scenes – Only three short sequences. None of them were needed, but there is a nice extended moment between Disney and Travers.
- Let’s Go Fly a Kite (1:47) – Is nothing great. It just shows the last day of the shoot and some cast and crew members.
- Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to Present (14:35) – This is a great feature that takes a look at the history of the studio from its birth to the present day. We see some of the changes that occurred and how many things remained pretty much the same as well. I enjoyed seeing some of the older techniques used before we relied on CGI. This is well worth watching.
- Digital Copy