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Movie review: 'Saving Mr. Banks'

Director John Lee Hancock's “Saving Mr. Banks” feels emotionally honest, so its small compromises for the sake of dramatic weight feel justified and will only bother people who can quote chapter and verse on the tense relationship between Walt Disney and “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers.
BY GEORGE LANG Assistant Entertainment Editor Published: December 20, 2013

Fans of the Oscar-winning 1964 version of “Mary Poppins” will only see fleeting glimpses of the actual film, but the creative process depicted in “Saving Mr. Banks” shows how beloved songs such as “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)” emerged from the Sherman brothers' legendary talents. Thompson is wonderful and precise in portraying the artfully obstinate Travers — much of the film depends on both believing her power to derail a classic and understanding why she would do it. The real Travers was even less malleable than the one Thompson plays, and that's where “Banks” takes its liberties.

Naturally, “Saving Mr. Banks” rises or falls on whether viewers buy Hanks as Disney. They will: He might not look entirely like the man behind the mouse, but Hanks seems to understand the man's ideals, ambitions and magnetic appeal to a public that came to believe in his Magic Kingdom. This is a story about two people with iron wills. History shows how it shook out, but “Saving Mr. Banks” succeeds because the battle itself is almost as fascinating as the outcome.

George Lang