Guest / Limited Access /
Page 2 of 3

Saving Mr. Banks is a good movie. It's very entertaining. But beneath its surface is a great movie trying mightily to get out—one that is more truthful about Disney's more calculating side, one that acknowledges Travers didn't so much face her demons as make a deal with her own personal devil. To make that film would require something more than a momentary decision to not invite Travers to the premiere in order to represent the iron side of a leader who is used to getting his own way. Disney here is presented as so iconic, so beloved, that people want to please him. He never demands because he never has to—people just love him so much they want to give him what he wants.

And what's not to love? Tom Hanks is masterful, investing Disney with charm and intelligence. Even though Travers antagonizes him (she demands the entire film be shot without using the color red), he turns the other cheek. Even though the creative team works with her daily, it's Disney who plays Freud, figuring out what is really behind her uninviting exterior. He works late, encourages the creative team, and dispenses praise generously: "it's not just ironic, it's iconic . . . I won't be able to stop singing that for weeks!" When he takes Travers to the Magic Kingdom, he signs autographs for the visitors and graciously suggests that they should desire Travers's autograph more than his own, since she is the bigger genius.

Tom Hanks in 'Saving Mr. Banks'Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Tom Hanks in 'Saving Mr. Banks'

Walt is charming, but so too was Travers's father. He was the other man in her life who wooed her and wowed her with stories of magic kingdoms just at the next train stop, but did little to help her live in the real world. I kept waiting for the greater version of Saving Mr. Banks to emerge, one which understood not just how her biography informed Mary Poppins, but also her deep ambivalence about the very facets of Disney's character that the film insists on lionizing.

Still, I suspect most audiences, unlike many critics, won't make the perfect the enemy of the good. If, like Frozen, this movie doesn't perhaps stand up to the sort of hyper-scrutiny that the Disney label brings, it does (like Frozen) understand that this kind of scrutiny is for the sourpusses, critics, and cranks. If it can get viewers, like Travers, to tap their toes as "Let's Go Fly a Kite" is born, they'll be too busy revisiting Mary Poppins to look up the facts on Travers's Wikipedia page.

As the credits roll, we get the requisite archival footage of the actual participants. In this case, it's a tape recording of the actual participants discussing the storyboarding. The film doesn't have to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth—it just needs to be close enough that we don't feel too guilty for preferring its version to the real thing. It is, and we don't.

Make people just a little happy and they'll forgive you most anything. Even seducing them.

Tags:
Browse All Movie Reviews By:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
TrendingFive Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
If you want to help people see Holy Week with fresh eyes, start by dropping these familiar fallacies.
Editor's PickWatch and Wait
Watch and Wait
Tarrying with Christ and the fearful dying.
Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article. Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.