Mary Poppins was a classic Disney film that even this musical-hating critic loves to this day. It’s the story of a magical nanny who whips the Banks family into shape and was a fun tale with its catchy songs and mix of animation and live action. Who knew some dancing cartoon penguins would create so much drama for Walt Disney as he tried to get P.L. Travers to sell the film rights of the beloved novel which is depicted in the new film Saving Mr. Banks.

Saving Mr. Banks is a film with two different stories moving flawlessly through the film. The first story is the one you’re seeing in all the commercials concerning Tom Hanks playing a dead-on version of Walt Disney trying to persuade P.L. Travers to sell the film rights to Mary Poppins. Emma Thompson is amazing as the control freak, P.L. Travers who can’t let go of her beloved nanny. Thompson’s Travers would be considered the villain of Saving Mr. Banks as she tortures the poor Sherman brothers played by B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman.

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The reason for Traver’s stubbornness was a story I was unfamiliar with which makes Saving Mr. Banks all the more special. I will warn you right now – if you would like to stay completely spoiler-free then stopping reading now and move on with the assumption that I loved Saving Mr. Banks. The second plot in Saving Mr. Banks concerns Travers’ days in Australia during the early 20th Century living with her father, Travers Goff played by Colin Farrell. Travers loves his family, but contends with his own demons that puts that family’s livelihood in jeopardy constantly.

This portion of Saving Mr. Banks conveys why Travers held Mary Poppins so near and dear to her heart. Thompson and Hanks will receive all the praise and rightfully so, but Farrell’s heartbreaking and uncomfortable performance steals the show. It’s not all serious content in Saving Mr. Banks. There are some good laughs and some tender moments including a few with Travers’ driver played by the always reliable Paul Giamatti. The mix of Australian childhood flashbacks and Uncle Walt’s negotiations blends well on-screen making Saving Mr. Banks one of the best films of the holiday season.

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Overall, I give Saving Mr. Banks 3.5 out 4 stars.

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