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Movie Review

Saving Mr. Banks

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.

Reviewed by: John Decker
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Biography Comedy Music History Drama
Length:
2 hr. 5 min.
Year of Release:
2013
USA Release:
November 14, 2013 (festival)
December 13, 2013 (limited—15 theaters)
December 20, 2013 (wide—2,200+ theaters)
DVD: March 18, 2014
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

ramifications of alcoholism / drunkenness in the Bible

difficulties involved in losing a parent at a young age

How different was the real Pamela L. Travers from the one depicted in the movie?

Was the real relationship between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers as amicable as portrayed in the film?

music in the Bible

Featuring: Emma ThompsonP.L. Travers
Tom HanksWalt Disney
Annie Rose Buckley … Ginty
Colin FarrellTravers Goff
Ruth Wilson … Margaret Goff
Paul GiamattiRalph
Bradley Whitford … Don DaGradi
B.J. Novak … Robert Sherman
Jason SchwartzmanRichard Sherman
more »
Director: John Lee Hancock—“The Blind Side,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “The Alamo
Producer: Walt Disney Pictures
Ruby Films
more »
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Where her book ended, their story began.”

“Saving Mr. Banks” is my favorite film of 2013 with hardly a runner up. I would be pleased if I could set the expectations for you in watching this film. I was inclined for the first 30 minutes of the film, that in my review I would say something snide about “Saving Mrs. Poppins,” but for better reasons, after watching the rest, I am inclined not to. This is a very touching film. Yes, it is far from being about Walt Disney.

There is no doubt that this film leans powerfully into giving us a glimpse of production life at Disney, and it gives us a strong shadow of Walt Disney himself—impressions and anecdotes which take those of us who have never read a W. Disney biography into a journey of getting to know this icon of a man just enough to appreciate him more than the day before. Like W. Disney’s life itself, and that of any artist, there is more to this story than meets the eye. I will admit that it felt at first like a little sleight of hand took place; I feel I was led to believe this is a story about Walt Disney, but then I would ask much louder—why are we so obsessed with the greats? What about the geniuses unknown?

Ecclesiastes 9:15 says, “Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.” This story, as honestly the film name tells well, is more a back story of Mrs. Poppins, and what a powerful portrayal of the story it is.

In fact, I wish in some ways that it were a film about no one in particular, because it is such a beautiful story all of its own, and it is more powerful than the simple telling of anyone’s past. It wouldn’t get the box office hits without the big names though, would it? It might get some Oscars or other awards, but it would not carry as much bacon. On my soapbox I would say this is a sad state of affairs. Story, even story on film, is an amazing gift from The Lord, and this is a great one.

This story is heart-wrenching and heart-reaching. It is sincere and does not motivate a highly corrupted worldview, though it is in no way specifically Christian.

There are very few objections to this story. It is wholesome and thoughtful. It contains 2 damns, 2 hells, some alcohol abuse, a puff of smoke, bloody coughing into a rag, a drunken fall and a couple of kisses. The dress is very modest, as are the manners, etc. Director John Hancock also made “The Blind Side.” He obviously is able to craft a story well beyond pomp, popularity and shallow emotion. I say “Nice work, Sir.”

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate—“Oh G*d” (2), “Oh dear G*d,” “God,” “Good Lord,” “damn” (2), “hell” / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Superb. SUPERB!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Tori, age 40+ (USA)
Positive—Most enjoyable film I have seen for some time. The interaction between Miss Travers and Walt was fun and fascinating to watch and great acting, too. I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks to her childhood—the relationship between father and daughter was touching, heartwarming and sad. Highly recommended.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jeremy, age 49 (United Kingdom)
Positive—I enjoyed the movie. I’m a big Disney fan so, I knew I would enjoy the movie. The movie is more about PL Travers and her troubled childhood, then about Walt and the production of “Mary Poppins.” Even if you’re not a Disney fan, it’s still worth watching due the fine performances of Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks and Colin Ferrell. There’s no violence or sex. There’s a couple of curse words, but it’s not over the top.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Keith Chandler, age 35 (USA)
Positive—This movie is practically perfect in every way. I viewed it with my son, who has been a Disney fan since he maintained a Disney World Web site in primary school. Now, as a software engineer, he is a walking Disney encyclopedia, who reveled in the depth of detail lavished upon this movie. The bric-a-brac spread casually about was chosen with meticulous care to reflect current events; Walt’s office even sported a Florida map when Disney World was still a carefully guarded secret.

Tom Hanks captured the essence of Walt Disney, from his eye movements to the slight limp from a polo injury in the thirties. If you can find a VHS copy of Mary Poppins, the “Making Of” special feature that follows the movie makes an excellent companion to “Saving Mr Banks,” either before or after viewing it. But I expect it can also be found in the DVD.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Brian Schacht, age 67 (Canada)
Positive—I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and recommend it. The acting is superb. Tom Hanks does an incredible job as Walt Disney. The story is touching with a strong theme of forgiveness. There is great humor in the story as well. This is not for children hence the PG-13 rating. P.L. Travers’ father’s alcoholism and death from over drinking is presented very realistically.

The movie brings back a lot of nostalgia for the golden age of Walt Disney and, of course, the movie “Mary Poppins.” I never knew the story behind Disney’s promise to make “Mary Poppins” into a movie for his daughters or that it took almost 20 years for him to convince P.L. Travers to let him make it. It all turns out quite magical.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Kathleen, age 62 (USA)
Positive—This movie wasn’t quite what I expected, but I loved it just the same! I’m a Disney fan, so I was looking forward to seeing a movie about Walt. It was much more than that. I loved seeing two storylines come together as one at the end. I loved seeing the morals and lessons learned through the mistakes of others. (This is a movie that I’d be perfectly comfortable seeing with my grandmother… so that’s saying something!) I also loved seeing what the world of Disney was like during that time period.

I wouldn’t recommend this movie for young children. It’s too complex, and at times it’s too slow to hold a child’s attention. It also shows alcoholism, sickness, death, and a brief bit of smoking. One child is seen stealing liquor for an alcoholic as well. A very young child would be bored, and a slightly older child would be confused and/or scared.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Chrystal, age 37 (USA)
Positive—Before seeing “Saving Mr. Banks,” I noticed Disney had started to make a complete change of heart in their movies. After many years, they have finally listen to the audience about the need for family-friendly clean films back in theaters. “Saving Mr. Banks” was one that followed that direction in all the right ways. The performances by far from Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks are incredible. Tom Hanks performance put his other performance in “The Polar Express” to shame because he outdid himself in “Saving Mr. Banks.” Such a good portrayal of Mr. Disney (sorry, Walt).

I didn’t know much about PL Travers surprisingly so there was definitely a good story, with heart, surrounding this film, with full character development at the deepest level of intensity. I have no objections for Saving Mr. Banks. Thank you Disney for finally listening to the parents and families who have craved for clean media for the longest time. This and Frozen are restoring their good reputation. I can’t wait to own this on DVD later this year. Bravo!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Alexander Malsan, age 23 (USA)
Positive—After reading reviews on some sites and looking at the rating of PG-13, I had decided not to take our 10 year old daughter. We were looking for a good movie we could see as a family and had seen the previews and thought we would like this movie. Of course, we were very interested in the story line and love Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. I was concerned about how one Web site described the suicide attempt by the mother and a few other things. My daughter is very good about listening to what God says to her heart, and she really felt like it would be alright for us and wanted to see it. We looked at Christian Spotlight’s review again and decided we’d try it. I’m so glad we did.

It turned out to be a wonderful family experience for us in which we were able to talk with our daughter about the tragic results that can come from escaping our sorrows and fears through alcohol (or any other means), instead of going to God. She was able to see how one family member’s bad choice affects everyone in the family, not just the person making that choice and how it can have consequences long into the future. She was also able to see how we can make our own choices to make the best of our gifts and use them to do something great despite the sorrows in life we go through. We don’t have to let tragedy keep us from becoming what we were meant to be. It’s a wonderful movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jennifer, age 50 (USA)
Positive—I disagree with the reviewer for implying that there are no Christian themes in the absolutely wonderful film “Saving Mr. Banks.” First of all, the film is a great film for the whole family. I felt the PG-13 rating for some adult themes and very brief (although it does take the Lord’s name in vain once) to be a ludicrous micromanaging on the part of the MPAA lumping this film in with other films of the same rating that really are inappropriate for families.

Both Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks deserve Oscar consideration, but I hope that Colin Farrell is not ignored for his performance either. “Saving Mr. Banks” contains many wonderful scenes, such as when Mrs. Travers” chauffer (a wonderful Paul Giamatti) talks about why sunshine is so important to him and his daughter, and when Hanks” Walt Disney reveals that he understands Mrs. Travers” stubbornness, since he was once in her position himself. But most importantly is the scene between Hanks and Thompson in London when he reveals how her book taught him forgiveness of his father, and Thompson accepts that her own father wasn’t perfect, but that it was still ok to love him.

“Saving Mr. Banks” reminds us that the Mr. Banks in all of our lives are only human capable of mistakes, but still can be good people worthy of our love.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Andrew, age 37 (USA)
Positive—I thought that this movie was wonderful and saw it three times in two weeks! The acting was great and believable. I will definitely buy the DVD. I am a Christian and attend a non denominational Christian Church and strive to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I do not like The Lord’s name used in vain and wished that it hadn’t been included, but that didn’t stand out to me in the movie. Thank you for this movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Carolyn, age 69 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—***SPOILER*** Drinking alcohol. Walt Disney did smoke. He give her that there be no animation in this movie. She didn’t want red or Dick Van Dyke or facial hair in the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Thomas Dickensheets, age 52 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I have to say I have rarely been as disappointed with a movie before that I actually liked as much as I was with this one—hang in there and let me explain. I thought this script, the cinematography, and the actors (don’t forget the music) were wonderful. I cannot remember being as moved by an actress as much as I was by Emma Thompson; she was absolutely wonderful! To follow, between the “present” and the “past” in her mind was great, and she just was awesome.

Tom Hanks was also great at Walt Disney; I understand as well that the Sherman brothers were also faithfully recreated. The story was wonderfully knit together—a joy! I had also heard of a problem (of sorts) with Walt’s smoking—he smoked a lot—but Disney won’t allow smoking in their pictures; they worked around it with a scene showing Walt in the final stages of quickly putting out a cigarette and saying it wouldn’t be good to be seen smoking. Nicely done! Alright—hang in there—with the glowing review above, where is the strong disappointment? There was nothing sexual in the movie—there was drinking, but that was part of the real story, so I am good with that. It also showed the impact on the family—a good piece of realism. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Casey, age 48 (USA)
Negative—Youv'e got to be kidding when you say! “Saving Mr. Banks” is my favorite film of 2013 with hardly a runner up.” When is the Christian community going to stand up to Hollywood and agree with God who says “I will not hold him guiltless who takes my name in vain.” ? This is just another movie my wife and I were enjoying, until they took God’s name in vain, and we had to walk out. I get tired of it. When will we stand together and “Save the fame of His name”?
—Daniel F Hurt, age 56 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—This film was so touching and inspiring! I loved Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson! The acting was perfect; there is nothing negative to say about the acting—it was that good. I loved Emma Thompson’s facial expressions that at times she didn’t even need to talk, all you needed to see was her face, then you knew what she was saying through her emotion. Whether it was during a funny moment or a flash back.

There was no sexual content in this movie. But I did hear one GD. The Lord’s name in vain is muffled, and you can hardly hear it. (MINOR SPOILER) But if you are wanting to still bring the family the scene happens in a flash back as the father is lying in bed, he asks his daughter where his medicine is (alcohol) and she says “mommy hid it” that’s when he takes the Lord’s name in vain. He says it quietly though, because his daughter was in the room.

Besides that, I would recommend this movie to everyone! I would rate it 10 out of 10!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Meaghan, age 15 (USA)

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