Disney's SAVING MR BANKS is a surprisingly moving documentary about the making of Mary Poppins with great performances from its cast and enough behind the scenes surprises to keep even the most casual movie fan interested.
Emma Thompson is great as repressed, uptight Poppins author PL Travers, who has been chased for years by Walt Disney to turn her series of beloved books into a film.
As the film opens, Disney (Tom Hanks in a clever, terrific and quiet performance) has convinced Travers to come to LA to meet with his creative team to develop the film.
Walt must first convince her to sign an agreement before the film can be made. He vastly underestimates her sheer will in resisting any attempts to alter her character in anyway.
From the film's first scene, we switch back and forth from Travers childhood to the present day. Travers' father Travers Goff is a charming, smart banker with a serious drinking problem. His bond with PL is incredibly strong and Colin Farrell is at his best showing the absolute peaks and failures of fatherhood.
Annie Rose Buckley is beautiful and excellent as the young PL. As the back story unfolds, you the viewer and Walt's team discover together why the author is so protective of her character.
It's very well constructed and I am not a fan of flashbacks, but both of these worlds were so interesting that I never found myself wanting to flip back to the other, which is usually the kiss of death for flashbacks in both film and literature for me.
Paul Giamatti is great as one of Disney's drivers assigned to PL, Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak are a lot of fun as The Sherman Brothers, who wrote the music for Poppins and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) is very good as the film's producer.
Their battles with Travers are funny, powerful and entertaining and the behind the scenes peeks at the filming and an early 1960's Disneyland are great moments for Disney fans of all ages.
It would be easy to carp that the resolution is a bit too pat, that the documentary isn't very balanced as its created today by Disney, but in the sure hands of Hanks, Thompson, Farrell and a great supporting cast, it's a charming movie.
I have never been a fan of the Mary Poppins movie, even as a kid I didn't connect with it, but I have to admit this fascinating movie made me want to watch it again to see how the backstory influenced the final film.
Watch the end credits to hear actual recordings of the meetings between PL and Walt's team, which she insisted be recorded so they could not go back on their word.
The fact that they did, but only for the betterment of the character, makes for some interesting viewing.
Saving Mr Banks is a treat that gets an A.