“Saving Mr. Banks,” the film based on the life of “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers and the making of the “Mary Poppins” movie, hits theaters on Dec. 13 and is already earning mainly positive reviews.
“Saving Mr. Banks” stars “Brave” actress Emma Thompson as Travers, while “Captain Phillips” actor Tom Hanks portrays Walt Disney, Colin Farrell of “Total Recall” plays Travers’ father, and actors B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman play the Sherman Brothers, who were behind the score of “Mary Poppins.” It will be released in limited locations on Dec. 13 and enter wide release on Dec. 20. (Check back for our own review on Friday.) Oscar pundits have been pointing to the film as a possible contender for major awards like Best Picture, Best Actress (Thompson), and Best Actor (Hanks).
Variety writer Scott Foundas called the movie “a bit square, never particularly surprising, yet very rich in its sense of creative people and their spirit of self-reinvention” and found Thompson “superb” and Farrell “excellent.”
“[John Lee] Hancock, who cut his own directorial teeth at the studio (on the inspirational baseball drama “The Rookie” and the underrated “The Alamo”) is sometimes a bit too on-the-nose with his parallel storytelling, too heavy with Thomas Newman’s bouncy score, and too eager to pluck at our heartstrings (at which he nevertheless succeeds),” he wrote. “And if someone had to play Disney in a movie, a better candidate than Hanks, himself a gleaming icon of wholesome American entertainment, is hard to imagine.”
Forbes writer Scott Mendelson found the movie production scenes “somewhat repetitive” but wrote that Thompson’s scenes with actor Paul Giamatti as a limo driver were “among the best in the picture” and that the flashbacks to Travers’ youth with her father were “most engaging,” with Farrell “terrific” in the movie.
Leslie Felperin of the Hollywood Reporter said the script is “ingenious.”
“Emma Thompson takes charge of the central role of the waspish P.L. Travers with an authority that makes you wonder how anybody else could ever have been considered,” she wrote. “Colin Farrell [is] doing his best work for some time…. [there are] outstanding performances by the leads and supporting cast.”
Meanwhile, Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw says the roles of Travers and Disney are “enjoyably played” by Thompson and Hanks but that the scenes of Travers’ childhood are “laborious” and Farrell is “below-par.” He found the movie “a watchable film, with a giant-sized spoonful of sugar…. It's a shame we couldn't get more fireworks from the incomparable Hanks and Thompson.”