“Saving Mr. Banks” Blu-Ray Review – Extras Light But Worthy

Saving Mr. Banks” arrived in theaters last October, but was quickly overshadowed by the enormous success of Disney’s “Frozen“. The same seems to have happened with the Blu-ray release, but don’t freeze “Saving Mr. Banks” out.

Our movie review of “Saving Mr. Banks” from late 2013 is posted below the Blu-ray review. We both prefer the more contemporary scenes and tend to skip past the “history” portions of the movie on the Blu-ray, even though Colin Farrell is at his best here. It feels too much like two different films. “Saving Mr. Banks” is based on a true story of the creation of “Mary Poppins”, but there are many liberties taken – that said, it is definitely worth watching and worth owning. Emma Thompson is a revelation here, as she is in nearly every film she stars in. And Jason Schwartzman lights up the screen as Richard Sherman. The film gives due to brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, the amazing songwriting duo that Walt Disney personally hired.

Extras on the Blu-ray:

Previews

Previews are shown for the 50th Anniversary edition of Mary Poppins, and the upcoming film Maleficent. There is also an anti-smoking ad, I’m guessing due to Walt briefly smoking in the film.

The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to the Present

This bonus feature has little to do with “Saving Mr. Banks”, nor does it have to do directly (for the most part) with “Mary Poppins”. It is a history of the Walt Disney Studios, drawing comparisons between Walt’s time and present. There is something incredibly poignant about seeing employee life on the studio lot in the 1960’s vs. now, very little has outwardly changed. And it really captures what working at the studio would have been like in the 1960’s, with Walt Disney on the lot and the Sherman Brothers arriving to work. In present day, Richard Sherman walks into the office he used to create music in with his brother Robert, even mimicking the voice of P.L. Travers. This is the room that much of what happened in “Saving Mr. Banks” took place, and Sherman grows nostalgic when saying that “this room is filled with so many memories”.

The essential point of the bonus feature is about looking forward – embracing the past, but moving ahead. Harrison Ellenshaw, the son of the late Peter Ellenshaw, says, “I think if Walt Disney were here today, he would really embrace the change. Walt was not necessarily sentimental or nostalgic. He was always looking forward, looking ahead.”

This is a great bonus feature, worth owning the Blu-ray for.

Deleted Scenes

There are several deleted scenes, the one that would have fit best into “Saving Mr. Banks” is called “The Nanny Song”. Richard and Robert Sherman (played by Jason Schwartzman and B.J Novak) play the song “The Perfect Nanny” for P.J. Travers (Emma Thompson). Of course, she hates it.

“Let’s Go Fly a Kite”

Most of the cast and crew, including Emma Thompson and Jason Schwartzman, join Disney Legend Richard Sherman in a rousing rendition of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”. Sherman wipes away tears toward the end of the segment.

That is about it for special features!

Here is our review from late last year:

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Emma Thompson takes command in an Oscar-worthy performance as P.L. Travers in “Saving Mr. Banks”. Travers sold the “Mary Poppins” film rights to Walt Disney after 20 years of being pursued. But make no mistake, “Saving Mr. Banks” is not a documentary. This is a story that has been loosely inspired by a true event.

P.L. Travers (Thompson) finally considers the offer of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) to make “Mary Poppins” into a film. She is in financial straits, with no other income in sight. However, she’s very protective of the nanny she created, and travels to Los Angeles from London on a two-week trip, unconvinced that she will be yielding the story rights.

Travers is met by driver Ralph (the always wonderful Paul Giamatti in a role created for the film), who tells Travers that the sun came out just for her. Travers doesn’t appreciate the comment, nor the “chlorine and sweat” she smells as she exits LAX. It’s obvious she isn’t going to be an easy woman to deal with.

Arriving at the Beverly Hills Hotel, this author who detests the thought of Disney taking over her Mary Poppins character is humorously inundated with gifts that remind her why she wasn’t interested in the first place.

Walt Disney plays a prominent role in “Saving Mr. Banks”, though he may not have been so involved in real life. Tom Hanks is better in the role than I expected, though not as immersive as I’d like. The talented Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman) and Robert Sherman (B.J. Novak) were in charge with Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), of leading the story meetings with the stubborn P.L. Travers. Travers did insist on taping these meetings, and some of the real recorded comments are played in the end credits. The scenes with the Shermans are my favorites in the film. Schwartzman is a joy to watch as he brings Richard Sherman to the screen, molding the songs that would outline the story for “Mary Poppins”. There is a lot of humor to be found here. Thompson has a quick wit in real life, and plays the sharp-tongued Travers with aplomb. Apparently P.L. Travers was even more difficult to work with in real life than shown in “Saving Mr. Banks”. Richard Sherman did consult on the film, and I expect the scenes with the Shermans are among the most accurate in the film due to that – and the tapes.

Spliced in with the 1960’s Los Angeles story is turn-of-the-century Australia, hearkening back to when Travers was a child. Contrasted to the relatively light and bubbly 1960’s, these flashbacks attempt to show where Travers might have drawn the inspiration for “Mary Poppins”. Collin Farrell (Travers Goff) is at his best here, and Annie Rose Buckley lights up the screen as his daughter Ginty. Ruth Wilson (Margaret Goff) was seen this year in “The Lone Ranger” in what feels like a similar role. When they all boarded the train together, I wondered if it was the same locomotive as from the earlier film.

The flashback scenes were a bit long for me, and help earn “Saving Mr. Banks” it’s PG-13 rating. They deal with issues such as alcoholism and death, and kids may squirm a bit here. “Saving Mr. Banks” really isn’t a film for young children per se’, even though the story revolves around a book and film made for them.

In the end, Travers does sell the rights to “Mary Poppins”, though the fairytale toe-tap ending isn’t quite how it turned out. She even made the provision that no Americans should be involved in writing the stage production. However, Walt Disney made a film that has been beloved for 50 years, and that is the most important story to come out of “Saving Mr. Banks”. I hope that new generations of fans will seek out more information about the Sherman Brothers. Richard and Robert Sherman have been a part of everyone’s lives, even those who don’t know this talented duo by their names. I recommend the film “The Boys” to learn more about them. We’ve also picked up a couple of books to research the beginnings of Mary Poppins further.

You’ll be humming “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” when you leave the theater!

We had been invited to the “Saving Mr. Banks” press conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel a couple of months ago. It was really quite entertaining – the talented cast clearly had a lot of fun together. Here is our video from the conference.

 

Saving Mr. Banks: B

PG-13

Directed by John Lee Hancock

Screenwriters: Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith