The words old-fashioned, sentimental and charming come to mind when watching Saving Mr. Banks - in a good way. These are, after all, the qualities you'd expect from a Disney film about the making of a Disney film, and starring Tom Hanks.
Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney's 20-year quest to secure the rights to produce a film of P. L. Travers' Mary Poppins novels. Disney (Hanks) is determined to make the film, and deliver on a promise he made to his daughters. P. L Travers (Thompson) is equally resolute that her creation will never be given the Hollywood treatment.
But in 1961, financial pressures force the prim and proper Australian-born Englishwoman to hear what Disney has in mind. She is assured that she'll have approval of the script and there will be no animation in the film, but is mortified to learn the movie will be filled with musical numbers.
She spends two weeks with the film's screenwriter and songwriters, and in prickly discussions with Disney as they try to agree on, well, anything. Travers doesn't like the proposed art direction, costumes, choice of actors and rewrites the screenplay line by line.
Her reluctance to let go of Mary Poppins makes her more and more unreasonable by the day - to the point where she announces there will be no colour red in the film. It's all highly amusing and based on actual recordings Travers insisted were taken each day.
But Saving Mr. Banks is more than a showbiz, behind-the-scenes story - it also introduces us to the woman behind the famous story.
Where Travers' Hollywood excursion is playful and amusing, these flashbacks are emotionally charged and designed to bring on tears. It should be noted that director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) has not made a film for children with a fondness for Julie Andrews' flying nanny routine - this is a mature drama aimed at young adults and their parents.
Hanks and Thompson are wonderful together. Their characters have their own agendas and can be unlikeable, but they both win our affections.
Although at times overly sweet and emotional, Saving Mr. Banks is for the most part warm, heartfelt and easy to like. It's hard not to appreciate the Disney magic once again on display here.
Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Paul Giamatti
John Lee Hancock
Delightfully old-fashioned yarn about the making of a classic film