Saving Mr Banks

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We last saw Tom Hanks fight to survive a hijacking by excitable AK-47 waving Somali pirates as Captain Phillips.

Now the poor man, as Walt Disney, is up against the formidable froideur of Emma Thompson as the author of Mary Poppins, cosmically unimpressed with Disney and La La Land.

Dwindling royalties force the fussy Australian-British novelist in London in 1961 to entertain the idea of Disney producing a feature film adaptation of her book about a magical English children’s nanny.

Flown to Hollywood and offended by the vulgarity at every turn, Travers is courted by Disney who wants the writer to sign the screen rights to him, thereby fulfilling a 20-year-old promise to his daughters to make a film of their favourite book.

However, clashes of culture and personality arise when Travers steadfastly refuses to have Mary Poppins turned into one of Walt’s “silly cartoons”.

Saving Mr Banks, named after the father in the book and the eventual 1964 musical film, delves fairly successfully into the inspiration for Mary Poppins by flashing back to the writer’s youth in Australia in 1906.

Colin Farrell gives his most engaging performance in years as her devoted father, an imaginative bank manager fighting a losing battle with the bottle.

Thompson is great fun and memorable in the lead role which gives Maggie Smith a run for her money in the art of the arched eyebrow and pithy put down.

However, this unique Walt Disney Pictures and BBC Films co-production feels crafted by committee not to offend and seems tailor-made for the post dinner and Queen’s Speech slot on Christmas Day.

THREE POPCORNS OUT OF FIVE

Saving Mr Banks (PG)

Starring: Emma Thompson (Love Punch), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Colin Farrell (Dead Man Down).

Director: John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Alamo).

Screening: Reading Cinemas Queenstown