The Sloth went to Disneyland when we were ten. And frankly, our ten year old self could take The Magic Of Disney or leave it – Sea World was far more exciting because they let you pet stingrays. Saving Mr Banks trades heavily on that famous marketing line, so how you feel about the film will probably depend in part on how you feel about Disney.
PL Travers (Emma Thompson) was the author of celebrated children’s book Mary Poppins. Prickly and truculent, she protected her literary creation with the vehemence of a mama bear defending her cub, most notably against Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) who, having been introduced to the book by his children, spent 20 years unsuccessfully campaigning to adapt Mary for the big screen. Until one day, money issues forced Mrs Travers hand and she very, very reluctantly found herself on a flight from London to Hollywood, with one unsigned Disney film contract burning a hole in her pocket.
What follows is a mixture of high comedy and high drama, with wonderfully ridiculous battles between the belligerent Travers and the cheery Hollywood scriptwriting team assigned to the film contrasting with flashbacks to her difficult childhood in the Australian countryside with an alcoholic father (Colin Farrell).
For The Sloth, the fun of Saving Mr Banks was in the titanic culture clash between the tweed suited, prim and eye-wateringly acerbic Mrs Travers (God help anyone who addressed her as ‘Pamela’) and the genial, laid back, all-American Walt, scratching his head in bewilderment at this feisty Dame From Hell. With a glimpse into the glamorous world of Old Hollywood thrown in, it’s a sufficiently entertaining premise that doesn’t necessarily need the big emotional back story, but that’s The Magic Of Disney for you – you don’t get the laughs without a few tears. Now imagine if they’d thrown in something involving stingrays…
UK release 29 November 2013.