First reviews for Saving Mr Banks

21 October, 2013 by Don Groves

The world premiere of Saving Mr Banks got a rousing reception from the audience as the closing film of the London Film Festival on Sunday night and mostly favourable reviews.

The tale of Walt Disney's struggle to bring PL Travers' Mary Poppins to the screen was co-produced by Essential Media and Entertainment’s Ian Collie and executive produced by Hopscotch Features’ Troy Lum.


Directed by The Blind Side’s John Lee Hancock and scripted by Kelly Marcel and Aussie Sue Smith, the film stars Tom Hanks as Disney with Emma Thompson as the Australian-born novelist and Colin Farrell as her father. Financed by the Disney Co. the film opens in Australia in January and in the UK on November 29.

The studio initially threatened legal action to shut down the project, which was developed by Essential Media and Alison Owen's Ruby Films, before finally giving the greenlight in late 2011.

After the London premiere Hancock brought his cast and crew to the stage to “cheers and whoops with big adulation reserved for Hanks, Farrell, Brit lead producer Alison Owen and Emma Thompson,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The first reviews were mostly laudatory. The Telegraph’s David Gritten awarded 4 out of 5 stars, observing that the clash between Disney and Travers has been “reworked into a cat-and-mouse game that often resembles a seduction. In one corner: Tom Hanks as Disney, all bluff charm, sweet persuasive reason and call-me-Walt bonhomie. In the other: Emma Thompson as the prickly Travers, protective of her literary creation, a stickler for facts and grammar, and suspicious of the wearingly cheerful optimism of the studio’s culture.”

Gritten continued, “This gets played for laughs – many of them good ones. No opportunity is lost to highlight the differences in world-view between these two. But it’s Thompson as the heroically unbiddable Travers who makes the most of it; her bravura performance effectively dominates the film.

“Pitching her delivery somewhere between Nanny McPhee and Miss Jean Brodie, Thompson perfectly embodies Travers’s air of disapproval and distaste.”

Variety's Scott Foundas opined this "has all the makings of an irresistible backstage tale" and predicted it  "should earn far more than tuppence from holiday audiences — and from awards voters who can scarcely resist this sort of mash note to the magic of movies (e.g., Argo, The Artist)."

The Independent declared the film is “effective enough as a weepie” and boasts a fine performance from Thompson, ”who starts the movie in eccentric groove like a prickly version of Joyce Grenfell’s Miss Gossage, but slowly and subtly reveals her character’s vulnerabilities and complexities.”

But the paper concluded, “Saving Mr. Banks also feels sanitised and disingenuous… As played by Tom Hanks, Uncle Walt is an avuncular everyman, combining business savvy with a childlike sense of wonder. It’s an absurdly idealised depiction that Disney animators such as Art Babbitt, involved in industrial action against the studio in the 1940s, would certainly struggle to recognise.”

The Guardian found Hanks entertaining “in this otherwise bland and sentimental effort….An enormous spoonful of sugar and the tiniest bit of medicine: it all goes down, just about. This is a warmly, in fact outrageously sentimental and self-congratulatory film from Disney.”