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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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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother (August 27), the instructions of Ambrose (December 7) and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Silence is the ability to trust that God is acting, teaching, and using me—even before I perform or after my seeming failures. Silence is the necessary space around things that allows them to develop and flourish without my pushing. God takes it from there.

 
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