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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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