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On the eve of its initial limited release, Disney is inviting viewers into the thought process that went into developing John Lee Hancock’s docudrama Saving Mr. Banks. Perhaps it wasn’t so much a thought process as just everyone standing around googly-eyed in Tom Hanks’ presence. But by focusing on Hanks’ jovial spirit and the classic music behind Mary Poppins, these two clips admittedly do an excellent job of drawing me into a film I’m not particularly sold on seeing.
The Oscar-winning actor says it best when he admits, "I don’t look anything like Walt Disney. I don’t sound like him." But it only takes him matching the whimsical confidence that Disney exuded to wipe the slate clean as far as preconceived ideas of appearances are concerned. The chameleon-like manner in which Hanks can insert himself into roles is always impressive, and even in his least exciting films, he is still the breath of relatable air that makes them universally watchable. I haven’t a care in my body for Mary Poppins as entertainment, but dammit if I don’t want to experience whatever it is that’s making Hanks smile like that. This is not stalker material.
Both clips feature Oscar-winning musician and songwriter Richard Sherman, who created the Mary Poppins soundtrack along with his brother Robert Bernard Sherman; they’re played in the film by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak, respectively. If anyone is equipped to credibly judge Hanks’ performance, as well as everyone else’s, it’s the guy who was a part of the classic film’s creative background.
I like Novak and Schwartzman in anything they star in, so seeing them teamed up here singing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is quite fun, and I think that I would readily enjoy a movie that was completely focused on this behind-the-scenes toe-tapping good time. But with a plot that draws much of its dramatic side from Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and her childhood’s influence into her stubbornness, I wonder how easily the happier scenes will guide audiences through the melodrama. (According to our own Kristy’s review, not always so well.) But Thompson was the only member of the Saving Mr. Banks team to get a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Drama, so I guess happiness isn’t chim-chim-cher-everything.
After its December 13 limited release, Saving Mr. Banks will hit theaters nationwide on December 20. Watch the trailer below and tell us if you think this film has still got any Oscar pull following the Globe noms.