Who is Mr Banks? Why save him? From what?
The answers to these questions won’t encourage curiosity, rather invite another: why spend a small fortune on a film about the woman who wrote Mary Poppins and how impossible she was?
The last film made about the difficulties of making a film was Hitchcock, with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. The film within that film was Psycho. This time it’s a flying nanny. Anthony Perkins vs Julie Andrews? No contest.
Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) loves the book and has done so for 20 years. The hard part is persuading its author, P.L.Travers (Emma Thompson), to let him recreate it on celluloid.
She insists on no songs, no animation, no colour (especially red), no Dick Van Dyke and no moustache on Mr Banks.
After a charm offensive by Walt, she concedes on every count.
“The entire script is flim flam,” she announces to no one in particular and is tactfully ignored.
The film has two sections intercut at random between Australia, 1906, and Los Angeles, 1961.
In the first, an angelic looking Ginty adores her alcoholic father (Colin Farrell), the most unlikely bank manager in the history of colonial finance, and in the second she has metamorphosed into an insufferable English matron whose sole pleasures appear to be a fresh cup of tea (“milk in first!”) and saying no to everything.
Hanks has to be conciliatory and decent, hardly a difficult task for him, and Thompson has to make this awful woman sympathetic, which she tries and fails, due to overacting and a hideous haircut.
Let’s just say that Mary Poppins is remembered for Van Dyke’s Cockney accent and P.L.Travers is remembered for Mary Poppins – the book, not the film – and Walt Disney is remembered for a mouse.