Have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this apple-pie shaped slice of sentimental tosh – it’s not exactly warts and all, but it’s classily done and extremely watchable. If you don’t come out singing along with Mr Banks, there’s no hope for you.
The story of how Disney took 20 years to get the rights to put Mary Poppins on film is a strange one. Author PL Travers, a stereotypical uptight British woman with a tongue as sharp as her tweed suits, resisted the lure of the mouse until financial circumstances – and writers’ block – meant she had to give in. But she didn’t hand Poppins over without a fight, and this is the story of the two weeks Travers spent in LA working with the producers and writers who were trying their best to put the world’s most famous nanny on screen.
It says a lot for Walt Disney’s faith in the story that he put in so much effort, 20 years is a long time to fight for something. But even when she arrives in LA turning her nose up at all those terribly gauche American ways, it’s no easy ride: Travers is always on the verge of packing up her carpet bag and flying home. Of course we know she didn’t, so there’s no surprise ending, but watching her try to take control of the Disney juggernaut is amusing stuff. Travers is your archetypal stiff upper lipped Brit, on the loose in 60s LA and loathing every minute of it. Thompson is perfectly cast and looks like she’s really enjoying herself – and Hanks makes a sparkling Disney, using all the charm in the book to get his way. Which of course he does, in the end. There’s always a happy ending, right?
The one disappointment for me, and I’m sorry to say it.. but well it’s Colin Farrell. Throughout the film there are flashbacks to Travers’ childhood and her idolised but drunken loser of a father (Farrell). There are a lot of flashbacks, mostly entirely unnecessary and all incredibly tedious. Every time the story dips back in time to those twinkly old days of yore, all you want is to get back to the magic kingdom and find out what’s going on with the penguins. You do get to see Rachel Griffith being the fabulous inspiration for Mary Poppins of course, but I’d have preferred more of that and less drunken old daddy if we really had to go back there.
Actually, what I would have really liked is to see Travers’ reaction to Dick van Dyke’s accent… I can’t believe she didn’t have anything to say about that.
Despite the tedious flashbacks, there’s no way to dull the lustre of what is essentially a gloriously joyful movie – and one that will send you straight out to watch Mary Poppins so you can sing along to all those amazing songs again. If the Oscars are too scared to go down the slavery route this year, Saving Mr Banks could do very well.