The Tom Hanks Version of Walt Disney Looks Awfully Saintly

Slate's Culture Blog
July 11 2013 4:00 PM

The Tom Hanks Version of Walt Disney Looks Awfully Saintly

tomhanks_disney
Tom Hanks strikes an awkward pose next to Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks

Photo ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 2013

After the outlandish box-office bombs of John Carter and The Lone Ranger, Disney has set its sights on much safer territory: itself. Continuing the recent tradition of movies-about-better-movies—think My Week with Marilyn and HitchcockSaving Mr. Banks portrays Disney’s struggle to produce Mary Poppins despite the reticence of its author, P.L. Travers, to commercialize her deeply personal book.

The screenplay, by Kelly Marcel, has been on the cultish but overrated Black List for some time now, and there’s no denying the nostalgic pull a film about Poppins has. (Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, explicitly referred to the production as a “brand deposit” at CinemaCon in April.) But now we have the first trailer, and our first look at whether the film is more product placement or feel-good story.

Advertisement

Judging from this first glimpse: a little of both. The film looks impressively staged, and the scene where Travers rejects an early rendition of “Chim Chim Cher-ee” brims with humor and verve. But much of it seems safe and cloying. Hanks has for years had a penchant for Oscar-bait roles, and his Disney seems—here, at least—almost generically upbeat.

The rest of the cast almost makes up for it. Alongside Hanks are Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman, and West Wing favorite Bradley Whitford. It’s hard to entirely mess up a film with actors like that; Thompson in particular shines as the rattled and sarcastic Travers, and she’s saved worse stories than this one.

That story relies heavily on parent-child plot lines: Disney promises his daughters he’ll bring Poppins to the screen; Travers has a complex and troubled relationship with her father. It’s yet to be seen, however, if the movie will insist on a happier ending than the real story had: Travers disliked the 1964 film—especially its use of animation and its musical numbers—and refused to allow any more of the Poppins books to be adapted.

Sharan Shetty is a writer for Brow Beat. You can follow him on Twitter

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.