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Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/18/2014

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/26/2014

Movie fanatics often obsess over films and they love to make specific movies their own. They relish the emotional connection which they have with said movie, quote it at every opportunity, and bristle if anyone utters a negative word against it. What is often forgotten is that those behind the film also have an emotional connection to it as well, one which no doubt makes the fan's feelings look ridiculous in comparison. Making a movie can be a cathartic process for some artists and even if we aren't aware, those emotions can help to make a film more powerful. Saving Mr. Banks explores this idea, showing that making entertainment is not all fun and games.

Saving Mr. Banks examines the making of 1964's Mary Poppins. Pamela Travers (Emma Travers) or "Mrs. Travers" as she prefers to be called, is the author of the Mary Poppins books. For twenty years, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has attempted to have her sign over the rights to the character for a movie, but she has refused. Now out of money, Pamela agrees to travel to Los Angeles and meet with Disney in order to finish this business. She assumes that when he hears her demands, he will want out of the deal. She arrives in L.A. and immediately dislikes the place. She also doesn't like Disney and his insistence on calling her by her first name. Pamela is introduced to writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and composers Robert (B.J. Novak) and Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman), whose job it is to take her through the story, showing how the book is to be adapted and what the songs will be like. While Pamela endures this, she harkens back to her childhood in the Australian Outback and how her relationship with her father (Colin Farrell) influenced her writing.

I'm not sure what's going on over at the Oscars or the Golden Globes, but Saving Mr. Banks got robbed. I've seen most of 2013's "Oscar caliber" movies and this is certainly one of the best. Was it because the movie could be perceived as Disney promoting Disney? Was it because it came from the director of The Blind Side? It seems painfully ironic that Mary Poppins won five Oscars when the only nomination which Saving Mr. Banks got was for its score. Well, it's their loss.

The movie works on several levels. First of all, we get an interesting glimpse into the world of filmmaking. I can't believe that screenwriters didn't want to nominate this movie as it depicts a writer having ultimate control over the content of a movie based on their work. We see how hands-on Disney was with his projects and how male-centric the industry was in those days. It's interesting to note that even before he had secured the writes to Travers' works, Disney had commissioned storyboards, characters designs, and songs. (You'd get sued if you tried that today?) The movie offers a unique view of a true process of collaboration between Hollywood and a woman who was decidedly non-Hollywood. We also get an idea of what Walt Disney was like as a person. (Did he really carry around pre-autographed cards?)

While this is all very interesting, it's the emotional content of Saving Mr. Banks which makes the movie work. As we watch Pamela attempt to work with Disney's team, the movie inserts scenes of her childhood, where we see that she was enamored with her father until tragedy struck. As the two stories progress, we begin to get a better handle on what kind of person Travers is and why she is so protective of her characters. At first, it's very easy to writer her off as a tightly-wound Brit, but we soon see that there are true scars there which were treated in a sense through her writing. The process of exploring the idea of making Mary Poppins into a movie re-opens some of those wounds, and we watch as Pamela attempts to reconcile fact with fiction, past with present.

In The Blind Side, Director John Lee Hancock explored how people from different worlds helped one another be better people. He does something similar in Saving Mr. Banks, as show-business types help a conservative woman from England face her inner demons. Emma Thompson is fantastic as Travers, a woman who comes across as very cold and spiteful, but we can see that it's simply a defense mechanism. We should hate this woman, but Thompson makes her very human, and thus we are willing to go on this journey with her. Hanks is good as Disney, but it's impossible to not see this simply as Tom Hanks doing a Walt Disney impression. Paul Giamatti is excellent in a small role. Moving and revealing, Saving Mr. Banks is a triumph which shows that creativity can be a way to get to the core of one's being.

Savings Mr. Banks offers a hotel room which looks like the back of the Disney Store on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably the greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent and the depth looks great. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects sound good, showing nice separation. The flashback sequences and the premiere sequence offer good surround sound. The music sounds especially nice and the "Let's Go Fly A Kite" builds from a soft number to a piece which fills the speakers.

The Saving Mr. Banks Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. The Disc offers three DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes. All of these scenes are new, but they all also echoes moments which are in the finished film, so it's easy to see why they were cut. "The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to Present" (15 minutes) examines the look of the Studios and how the production designers of Saving Mr. Banks made the location look as it did in the 1960s. This piece offers a ton of footage and photos from the past, as well as a look at the Studio today. "Let's Go Fly a Kite" (2 minutes) takes us on-set to show the cast and crew celebrating the last day of filming with a song.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long