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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Saving Mr. Banks

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Tom Hanks stars in a scene from the movie "Saving Mr. Banks."
Fifty years after the premiere of the Walt Disney musical "Mary Poppins" comes "Saving Mr. Banks" (Disney), a film about the making of that 1964 classic.

Who would have guessed that behind the scenes of such a widely beloved movie lay a battle of wills worthy of a grand Shakespearean drama, with swords crossed over details as simple as ... "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"?

Director John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side") serves up a delightful mix of nostalgia and sentimentality as he recreates the Hollywood dream factory of the early 1960s.

The witty script by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith is based on a true story. Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) promised his daughters he would make a movie from the children's books they loved -- tales of the magical nanny Mary Poppins, written by Pamela Travers (Emma Thompson) under the pen name P.L. Travers.

For two decades, Disney lobbied for the film rights, to no avail. But when Travers' fortune eventually dried up, she was forced to reconsider.

Against her better judgment, she packs her bags and heads to California, determined to protect her prized creation from being "Disney-fied."

"I won't have her turned into one of your silly cartoons!" she warns Disney. "You don't know what Mary Poppins means to me."

Disney and Travers are polar opposites. Disney, gregarious and ever sunny, is countered at every suggestion by the prickly, buttoned-up author, who is no fan of Hollywood. He launches an all-out charm offensive, including a guided tour of Disneyland, but without result.

Faring no better are the songwriters, the famous Sherman brothers, Richard (Jason Schwartzman) and Robert (B.J. Novak). Travers is opposed to turning her book into a musical, and repelled by the chirpy songs that have become iconic, including "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Chim Chim Cher-ee."

Things look pretty bleak until Disney senses an opportunity. Delving into Travers' background, he discovers there is an intensely personal side to Mary Poppins.

In flashbacks to Travers' impoverished childhood in rural Australia, we learn that her Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths) was the model for the nanny, and her adored but flawed father, Travers Goff (Colin Farrell), the inspiration for the fictional George Banks of the title.

Although the ending of this story is well-known, "Saving Mr. Banks" has many surprises in store as it veers from comedy to tearjerker and back again. Parents should be aware of emotional moments which may be too intense for pre-teens. Overall, though, the sincerity and wholesomeness of the picture make for a welcome change at the multiplex.

The film contains mature themes, one use of profanity and a mild oath. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Jutta of Thuringia: Today's patroness of Prussia began her life amidst luxury and power but died the death of a simple servant of the poor.
<p>In truth, virtue and piety were always of prime importance to Jutta and her husband, both of noble rank. The two were set to make a pilgrimage together to the holy places in Jerusalem, but her husband died on the way. The newly widowed Jutta, after taking care to provide for her children, resolved to live in a manner utterly pleasing to God. She disposed of the costly clothes, jewels and furniture befitting one of her rank, and became a Secular Franciscan, taking on the simple garment of a religious.
</p><p>From that point her life was utterly devoted to others: caring for the sick, particularly lepers; tending to the poor, whom she visited in their hovels; helping the crippled and blind with whom she shared her own home. Many of the townspeople of Thuringia laughed at how the once-distinguished lady now spent all her time. But Jutta saw the face of God in the poor and felt honored to render whatever services she could.
</p><p>About the year 1260, not long before her death, Jutta lived near the non-Christians in eastern Germany. There she built a small hermitage and prayed unceasingly for their conversion. She has been venerated for centuries as the special patron of Prussia.</p> American Catholic Blog The confessional is not the dry-cleaner’s; it is an encounter with Jesus, with that Jesus who is waiting for us, who is waiting for us as we are.

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