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Yes, No, Maybe So: Saving Mr. Banks

Glenn here looking at the trailer to the long-awaited sequel to Oscar-winner Finding Neverland!

Tom Hanks as Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L.Travers in "Saving Mr Banks"

Okay, so Saving Mr. Banks isn't a sequel, but it's certainly a kin to Marc Forster's Peter Pan origin story from 2004. I wasn't a fan of that movie, but given we've recently been discussing Johnny Depp's descent into fulltime caricature, maybe we should relish Finding Neverland as one of his few roles of the last decade that didn't rely on kooky make-up and broad physical comedy. For whatever reason I'm surprised Disney didn't try and get Depp on board to play a bumbling Dick Van Dyke in this behind the Hollywood scenes feelgood drama. Instead they went with relative unknown Kris Kyer who actually has a history as a Dick Van Dyke impersonator. Whatta world! [more...]


Neither he nor Victoria Summer as Julie Andrews are featured in this first trailer for Saving Mr Banks which is more interested in the story of Mary Poppins' author (Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers) and her relationship with Walt Disney. There is, however, plenty of Emma Thompson.

Let's take a look see, shall we?.


• Emma Thompson. It really can't be said enough how big of a treasure she is to cinema. While she will never likely top her string of critical successes from the early 1990s (Howard's End, The Remains of the Day, In the Name of the Father, Much Ado About Nothing and Peter's Friends is nearly as strong a run as Nicole Kidman had in the early '00s), she continues to do fine work whenever she graces us with her presence. While I find it curious that Thompson brought Nanny McPhee to the screen and now tries to tell the tale of Mary Poppins' creator, I'm just grateful she has the lead role in a movie that's aiming for the big leagues.

•The rest of that cast. Like him or loathe him, Tom Hanks seems ideally cast as Walt Disney, don't you think? In addition to Thompson & Hanks we have: Rachel Griffiths, Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Kathy Baker, Paul Giamatti, and Ruth Wilson. An impressive roster, no?

•"No, no, no. 'Responstable' is not a word!" I know it just ties back to Thompson, but there could be some fun to be had in the way the original books became such a sweet Disney confection.


• John Lee Hancock. The director of The Blind Side, The Alamo and The Rookie is back to provide us with syrupy mainstream pap. I wasn't as down on The Blind Side as others and I know Nathaniel likes the Rookie but, still, it doesn't exactly fill me with confidence that we're looking at a new Hollywood classic.
• Memories of Finding Neverland. No, but seriously, Finding Neverland was baaaad. I hope this isn't anywhere near as mawkish and bland. This pertains to the previous point, obviously.
•"Dear viewers, please come and visit Disneyland." There's something really off-putting about Disney making a movie that is basically all about how great Disney is and how wonderful Disneyland is and the magic of movies is at Disneyland. The film is basically one big commercial for the power of Disney and would you like to spend your hard-earned money at Disneyland?


• There's something ironic about Disney turning the story of adapting Mary Poppins into a cheery movie against its creator's wishes into a seemingly whimsical cheery affair. However, as I'd heard rumoured some time ago, the sequences with Rachel Griffiths (one of my favourite Aussie actors) as the original Mary Poppins appear to be aiming for a somewhat darker tone. We'll see.
• The cast. Yes, I know I covered them in the "Yes" field, BUT... didn't you see Hitchcock? That was another Inside Hollywood feature with a big attractive cast yet which bottomed out and was one of the worst films of the year. Who knows how big of a role the likes of Kathy Baker or Schwartzman will get. Doesn't Giamatti's appearance in the trailer seem awfully like that of, say, Toni Collette in Hitchcock? Griffiths is the one I am particularly interested in, but will she be relegated to one flashback?

• Like every so-called Oscar rule that can be disproved simply by using the words "except when they don't": The Academy love movies about Hollywood... except when they don't. The Academy love movies with Tom Hanks... except when they don't. etc etc. Whenever anybody tries to tell you something is LOCKED because "duh!" there's always an example of them turning their nose up. So while Saving Mr. Banks has the appearance of a no brainer, it could easily turn into, say, another Hyde Park on Hudson. Frothy can be a tough sell unless it really sticks the landing.
• The "twinkly" fantasia. It could be magical. It could be embarrassing. Tom Hanks on the TV set doesn't imply the film will be filled with the stuff, but maybe the rather generic look of the film could use some visual inventiveness like that. 

Here's the trailer if you're up for it. I'm camped out in the "Maybe So" area of Disneyland with Saving Mr. Banks. Like the aforementioned Hyde Park on Hudson it could simply vanish without the right critical reception and end up an also ran. I suspect it'll be one of those "well, I guess I have to see this, don't I?" affairs, but let's hope for something supercalifragilisticexpialadocious.


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Reader Comments (42)

I am intrigued by it? But not really too blown away by Hanks or Thompson. Haven't I seen them play these charcter types before?

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

It looks worryingly hagiographic.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNico

I personally think that it will be more on the "Hyde Park on Hudson" end of the scale, and we all know how disappointing that was!

Somehow, I really don't see Tom Hanks as being a great Walt Disney in this; I just don't think he's got it.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

It looks awful. And I love Thompson, but she doesn't deserve to be in the same heights she was in the 90's. She just can't pick a good project with a good director. Come on, why would an actress like her would dice to be in something like MIB 3?

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Yeah, I called the Finding Neverland comparison yesterday. This is totally hooking a slew of Oscar noms.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I'm just really happy to see Emma Thompson in something that she can act in and arguable be the main focus in order to show off her acting chops!
I think since her reign in the 90's she has done a mix of pay cheque work (MIB3) and love of acting & storytelling pieces (the underappreciate Last Chance Harvey)
Glenn another point to add to your 'maybe so' section: I also think another focus for the Academy is that this is a period piece but as we all know the Academy loves a period piece except when they don't.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGraham

While Hitchcock was nowhere near perfect, I definitely wouldn't say it was one of the worst movies of the year. I found it enjoyable (thought that might be due to my Psycho fanatism) and thought the cast (other than a so-so Hopkins and a terribly underused Colette) was good.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

If this wasn’t being produced by Disney, there might be some hope. As it is, there’s no way this isn’t going to be a ‘PL Travers is such an old grouch because of BACKSTORY and she needs to lighten up because Disney is MAGICAL.’ I don’t want to watch an entire film about somebody learning how to embrace the magic of Disney.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

I am a smidge horrified by the BROAD mimicry of Dick Van Dyke in that audition tape... but i guess you gotta sell it broadly to get the part. (not that DVD was a "subtle" actor.. but you know).

still, i am all YES on this because I miss Emma Thompson as an actress so damn much. She was so good in Last Chance Harvey!

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

I'm a yes, to maybe yes. Thompson in something other than funny makeup, the possibility of the back story being interesting, my own history with Mary Poppins (such a terrific film) magical Disneyland was the fist time I saw it at age 9. Not so thrilled with the trailer other than Thompson and when Hanks get a little serious about figuring out what he needs to do to make her happy.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry O.

i, for one, can't wait to see it - i think it looks fantastic / emotional.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

Oh, I am totally yes on this one. I like Tom Hanks well enough as an actor, and quite a bit as a person, and Emma Thompson is one of the greats in my opinion.

Also, frankly, the time period and personalities interest me. DVD & Julie and Mad Men fashions, the Sherman Brothers and a "humbler" Disneyland. For sure. ;-)

Also, if you've got two stars who have won two Academy Awards each, can't you say "two time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks, and two time Academy Award winner Emma Thompson"? Or would that be too gauche, even for Hollywood?

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

It looks passable but not like a great movie.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I was leaning towards yes for Emma Thompson alone. I like Tom Hanks well enough but he doesn't make me go to the theatre anymore, but the rest of the cast contains many favorites, Rachel Griffiths, Colin Farrell etc. However I felt the same way last year with Hitchcock until I saw the trailer which left me cold, while I wasn't blown away by this one I didn't get that blah vibe I did from the one for Hitchcock. That makes it a yes for me.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Maybe so. I'm sure this will be a perfectly adequate show biz entertainment - just like the Hitchcocks and My Week with Marilyns of the world. I like the subject matter and the cast and think Hancock is actually an underrated director - there are precious few directors still working the "G/PG family drama" niche, and he's an able carrier of that particular torch. But this is a deeply conventional, even dull trailer and if, as others have mentioned, this is just a Disney-made celebration of how great Disney is, then, you know, pass. I've read elsewhere that the movie - or the script, at least - is (was?) a good deal more interesting and nuanced than what we're seeing here, but who the hell knows.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

i never knew snow white had a day job as walt disney's secretary.

no - it lost me at daddy issues.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

"Finding Neverland" was fine. I was glad it made it into the best picture category.

Loved the trailer to "Saving Mr. Banks." This could enter BP territory too, and this could either propel Hanks with his "Captain Phillips" lead actor nomination or net him two nods with this in supporting actor. Emma Thompson looks excellent. So glad that she's back in the spotlight in a role that highlights her strengths. If this year's lead actress category weren't so stacked, I'd pencil her into the top five.

A big YES for the trailer from me!

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSamson

In truth, even when I say yes, I'm always maybe so. I wait and see the early reviews before making these decisions.

I love Hanks, Thompson, and Mary Poppins.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

This is something I don't think anyone else knows but...AolOn as a name for Aol's video service is REALLY STUPID, mostly because of the (hopefully) accidental Marville reference that it is. Y'know, Marville, where the father of humanity is WOLVERINE.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

It looks like something that would play beautifully on Hallmark, ABC Family, or some such television network, so unless the reviews are stellar, I will save my money for the Red Box release.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Cannot stand Hanks ever since Forrest Gump ....

I love Thompson .. do not know how you can even compare her to Kidman ( at their heights ).

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Rick, while they're not comparable in many ways, I was merely comparing them in terms of their incredible five-film runs at the start of each decade. Thompson with Remains, Howards End, Peter's Friends, Father, and Much Ado is as startling a collection of films as Moulin, Others, Hours, Birth and Dogville.

Thompson has been doing fine work - Wit, Last Chance Harvey, and apparently that new YA adaptation Beautiful Creatures, but it's nice to see her as the centre of a film that's aiming for a bigger crowd than, say, LCH.

Graham, yes. They love the royals except when they don't (Hyde Park, WE). They love Meryl except when they don't. etc etc.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

volvagia -- it's only really stupid if people see it as a reference of somethign but i have no idea what you're talking about. what is marville?

glenn -- those runs are so rare that you have to just bow down when they occur.

roark -- agreed on hancock. as for disney on how great disney is... well, since it is about the past and a genuinely great movie, i shall give them a pass :)

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Hmm, there's Emma Thompson in the title card . . . I'm there!

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Marville is a REALLY stupid comic book (starts as a bad full parody but becomes a horrible "Calvin and Hobbes-esque" witty philosophy book after the second issue) made by the editor of Marvel in 2002. So when I say "the father of mankind is WOLVERINE", I AM referring to Hugh Jackman's signature character. Other things in its pages are Jewish dinosaurs, one of the main characters feeling bad about the death of MOLECULES, a time machine made out of PS1 parts and an entire issue that has almost no proper comic formatting.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

volvagia -- then only about 100 people might remember or understand this so no worries. although i dont even know what promopted an AOLon comment anyway in a post about mary poppins. what is aolon... honestly i have no idea where you're coming from 90% of the time. lol.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

No thanks. It looks really cheap.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

As a zealous Julie Andrews worshiper, I'm curious as to why the script doesn't address her vital role in the creation of a classic. Disney was insistent on her playing the part.The writers can go fly a kite. But I'll still say yes.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

An obvious yes for the morbid curiosity factor and Thompson, but like a lot of people have said already, this basically looks like Disney's ad for Disney being wonderfully Disney Disney Disney Disney, to the degree where calling it "self-fellating propaganda" would be to err on the side of generosity. And that's coming from one of the Midwest's reigning Disneyphiles and somebody who still considers Mary Poppins to be on my list of desert island films.

Frankly, that they allow Walt to say "damn" seems like the most transgressive thing that's going to happen anywhere in the film.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTim

so it's not the sequel to Saving Private Ryan??

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermatt

I'm sure you're really glad to know that Depp is finalizing his deal for "Alice in Wonderland 2"!

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

It looks passable. It looks like I've seen the entire movie from that preview, though.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Tyler: If they don't change the characterization of their Alice, I'd seriously ask them to, at least, not use Wasikowska again. It's not a thick character, but in the original script she's supposed to be, at minimum, tough and hardy and able to handle herself in a fight. I'd see Katie Jarvis, frankly. Depp is...bad...but Mia is worse in how much she CAN'T pull off what they're asking of her.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Mia is sleeping with Jesse Eisenberg! Did you know that? #hotnerdcouplealert

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

OMG, why is Tom Hanks using that weird accent? In the old TV shows where Walt used to introduce the week's show, he spoke in a perfectly normal voice. To me, he doesn't look or act anything like Walt Disney. Disney was skinnier, faster, sharper, smarter. I think I saw a photo of Christian Bale once, dressed as Walt Disney, and he was a perfect choice.

I do love Emma Thompson though. I even love her as Nanny McPhee. This film looks like it's only going to make an average amount of money and get average reviews though. The supporting characters look like they're where the fun is.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteradri

This movie is going to make the best drinking game ever. Walt Disney says `something sassy - sip beverage. P.L. Travers says "NO!" in a worrisome manner - sip beverage. Walt Disney makes snide remark about Jew-run unions - DRINK EVERYTHING!

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

I'm saying Maybe So but unless I get really busy I know I'll see it, if only for Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks (whom I generally like).

GOD, but Hyde Park on Hudson was awful, wasn't it? PLEASE don't let this sink to that level.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Finding Neverland was a good movie. This movie looks good, as well. Thompson seems to be replaying the same basic character she did in Stranger than Fiction.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I adored Psycho which was why I loathed Hitchcock so much. Any behind-the-scenes, by-the-numbers documentary showed how more accurate and interesting it was than what got twisted and removed and added like a Frankenstein's monster. Only bright spots were ScarJo, James D'Arcy, and Collette- which further embittered me that they were so relegated.

I really want a Disney movie on his earlier life where a lot of the sore spots and character flaws are addressed (along with the more human moments such as his financial troubles and mental breakdowns for the sake of his creativity). I always thought Joseph Gordon Levitt as a young Disney would be terrific casting. It probably cannot happen. Disney addressing Walt's involvement in the Red Scare/blacklist and his relationship to labor unions would make such a project DOA.

As for this movie, I never read the original book by PL Travers but I treasure the movie. It does feel a little ODD that the movie is addressing one of the biggest things fans of its movies realize when they get older: Disney really sugar-coats a lot of their adapted works, sometimes in ways that are completely parallel to the source material. I also agree with brookesboy: WHERE IS JULIE ANDREWS???????????

July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Emma Thompson yes, of course. She is an great actress. I hope nomination Oscar for movie picture and her actors.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Emma Thompson yes, of course. She is an great actress. I hope nomination Oscar for movie picture and her actors.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

@Volvagia Depp is great in Alice.

January 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy

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