The absolutely scintillating saga of how Walt Disney won over the recalcitrant author P. L. Travers for the rights to adapt the Mary Poppins stories into a screen musical is the core of John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks. A docudrama brimming with acidic wit and melody and counterbalanced by a genuinely touching revelation of the early, tragedy-infused life of its creator, Saving Mr. Banks is one of the year’s most sterling achievements, one you’d have to have a heart of stone not to respond to.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 2 Hr. 5 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copykeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/18/2014
Desperately in need of money in 1961 after not producing any books for years and with royalties from previous work now exhausted, author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) finally submits to mogul Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) twenty-year entreaty to discuss bringing her Mary Poppins stories to the screen. A starchy, no-nonsense lady, Travers initially loathes every idea put forth by writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and composer-lyricists Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak) and insists she doesn’t want the film to be a musical or to contain animation. Over the course of days, the Sherman’s delightfully spirited score begins to win her over while memories of her early life with her alcoholic, consumptive father (Colin Farrell) and unstable mother (Ruth Wilson) continually intrude on her work and make giving in to what she considers Walt’s idealized view of childhood difficult indeed.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
The screenplay by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith masterfully weaves the then-present and past of Pamela’s life allowing the viewer to gain insight into her quirky behaviors and some of her inspirations for her crisp, efficient nanny character (exemplified most surprisingly late in the film by Rachel Griffiths playing her Aunt Ellie). At first, director John Lee Hancock seems to make the past morsels too bitty for digestion and somewhat intrusive to the arduous story of the team’s trying to get Mary Poppins off the ground, but as the film runs, those flashbacks grow longer and more dramatic becoming quite intrinsic to the fabric of the film and become scenes just as interesting as the present-day ones. Those thoroughly familiar with Disney’s Mary Poppins will certainly be in the catbird seat in understanding the plethora of allusions to the film which have been sprinkled throughout the script in both timelines, but even those without a nodding acquaintance with the 1964 classic should find the dramatic ebbs and flows in both past and present stories intriguing. The screenplay emphasizes the humanity of the characters, not only peeling away layers from Travers’ prickly façade to the human beneath (shaped and molded by her experiences as a young girl in Australia) but giving us some insight into Walt’s character and providing us with Disney’s secret weapon, an affable driver for Pamela named Ralph (Paul Giamatti) whose sunny disposition despite his own family tragedies brings out a warmth in Pamela hitherto unseen.
Emma Thompson gives a tremendous performance as Travers, appallingly brusque and thoughtless early on and gradually softening not only through the spell of Disneyfication (her hotel suite is a veritable zoo of Disney creations and there’s an amusing sequence where Disney drags her to Disneyland) but to the honest, hard-working men who are trying their best to do justice to her creation. Tom Hanks has the singsong cadence of Walt’s speech down pat though he seems a bit young to be playing the sixty-ish Disney (who due to his chain-smoking habit looked even older than he was). The revelation of the film, however, is Colin Farrell as Pamela’s spirited father Travers Goff. With the trace of a Celtic accent and a devil-may-care playfulness with his daughter which dissipates as disease racks him, Farrell has rarely been this appealing on-screen. Annie Rose Buckley as the young Pamela (known as Ginty) is luminously engaging as the loving daughter. Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, and Jason Schwartzman work wonderfully as a team trying their best to win over their surly adversary (with Novak’s Robert tiring eventually of the quest to win her favor).
Pamela Go Round clip
Call Me Walt clip
The film’s theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s a reference quality transfer with incredible sharpness, wonderfully realistic color (the Australian flashbacks are just the slightest bit desaturated to convey a sense of a previous era) with realistic flesh tones, and superbly consistent contrast to maximize the quality of the images. Black levels are excellent with impressive shadow detail. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is an excellent one with Thomas Newman’s enveloping score grandly separated into the various channels. There are some ambient sounds in the fronts and rears (though one might have wanted a little more ambience to be spread through the complete soundstage). Dialogue has been masterfully recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Deleted Scenes (7:24, HD): three deleted scenes may be watched individually or in a single montage.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins To The Present (14:35, HD): director John Lee Hancock and production designer Michael Corenblith are the guides to past and present Disney studios with vintage footage from the time of Mary Poppins’ production leading all the way up until today. Also featured are memories from some of the children of the original Disney staff and composer Richard Sherman with some memories of his own to share.
“Let’s Go Fly a Kite!” (1:47, HD): composer Richard Sherman plays as cast and crew sing the song on the last day of filming (November 20, 2012).
Promo Trailers (HD): Mary Poppins, Maleficent.
Digital Copy: code sheet enclosed in the case.
deleted scene - "Pamela Leaves"
A wonderful achievement offering a touching, revealing biographical portrait of author Pamela Travers (AKA Helen Goff), Saving Mr. Banks will be of particular interest to fans of Mary Poppins either on film or in print. The Blu-ray release offers reference quality visuals and wonderful sound even if the bonus feature package is a bit skimpy. Highly recommended!
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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