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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks Blu-ray Review

Not all Disney tales are filled with pixie dust and colorful characters. Well, some are colorful in a different way. Saving Mr. Banks is one of the latter, providing us with a behind-the-scenes peek at the not-so-magical making of 1964's Mary Poppins.

Despite being the creator of a legendary literary character, the film finds author P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson) having quite a few money problems. With no motivation to write and few royalties left, she decides to make a deal with the devil -- and in this case, that devil is Walt Disney himself.

Of course, Disney doesn't come off as a devil here. After all, it's a Disney movie. Instead, he's rather likeable. He expects his employees to address him by his first name, he greets the public with a smile and pre-signed autographed cards, he places bets with the boys, and he's played by Tom Hanks.

Travers, on the other hand, is not a very happy person. Considering her predicament and her Wikipedia entry, that doesn't seem like that much of a stretch. However, Saving Mr. Banks makes her come off like a grown woman with a lot of daddy issues, thanks to several flashbacks of an enthusiastic, but alcoholic father (Colin Farrell).

P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) doesn't find Disneyland to be " The Happiest Place On Earth," even when accompanied by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in "Saving Mr. Banks." Photo: François Duhamel/© Disney Enterprises, Inc.

There may be speculation about the events featured, as well as Travers' upbringing. However, there's one thing that cannot be denied: The author had a knack for putting fear and discomfort into everyone associated with the film. It's truly remarkable.

That's conveyed quite nicely -- or maybe not-so-nicely, depending on how you look at it. Thompson makes you downright uncomfortable with her portrayal of Travers. It's certainly not easy to make Hanks look like a prop, but she manages to make it her movie. She's absolutely wonderful to watch. That said, there are several other supporting roles that deserve a shout-out, most notably Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novak, and Bradley Whitford. Also, Farrell deserves a special mention as Travers' father.

Want to know more about this piece of Disney history? Check out Lexi Feinberg's theatrical review of Saving Mr. Banks.

The Picture

As long as you don't expect one of Disney's eye-popping Blu-ray releases, you'll be happy with Saving Mr. Banks. The 2.40:1 image isn't all that memorable, but it's very pleasing nonetheless. The action shifts between what's supposed to be the past and present and handles both eras quite nicely. The imagery from Travers' childhood is bright, with nice detail on the dry scenery, the wood, and even Colin Farrell's stubble. The present day has a darker color palette for the most part, thanks to the Mad Men-eque clothing and furniture. The scenes that show us Disneyland circa 1961 offer some of the best pop in the whole picture. However, there are plenty of other nice details here, most notably Emma Thompson's dark, permanently pursed lips and frown lines, as well as Tom Hanks' wrinkles and teeny mustache.

The Sound

Saving Mr. Banks is mostly about dialogue, which this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix delivers well. Everything is clear and centered. There are a few ambient sounds, but nothing too exciting. It's mostly the planes and the crowd chatter. Also worth noting is the Sherman Brothers' music, which is a standout, but doesn't quite pack the surrounds like you want it to. After all, the two aren't performaning this film's soundtrack; it's just two guys belting out ideas at a piano. The Saving Mr. Banks soundtrack is a different story, filling the surrounds with jazzy music that manages to perk up the overall mellow audio throughout the film.

The Extras
Naturally, Disney wouldn't want to go too much into the original story here. Supposedly, the studio tweaked the actual events a bit for the film. However, it's still surprising that a movie that's based on a classic film, recaps Disney history, and includes two A-listers doesn't have a few more special features. Instead, there are three deleted scenes, a cast version of "Let's Go Fly a Kite," and a 14-minute featurette about Walt Disney Studios. There's noting about P.L. Travers, the real-life production, this production, or any other production.
Final Thoughts

If you love the film Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks is certainly worth checking out. There's some truth to it, but anyone looking for the whole story may be slightly disappointed. However, a spoonful of sugar never hurt anyone, and certainly doesn't hurt this movie. It's entertaining and has the type of A/V experience you'd expect from a new Disney release.

Product Details
Actors: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Colin FarrellDirector: John Lee HancockAudio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), DVS 2.0 (English)Subtitles: English SDH, French, SpanishAspect Ratio: 2.40:1Number of Discs: 1Rating: PG-13Studio: DisneyBlu-ray Disc Release Date: March 18, 2014Run Time: 125 minutesList Price: $36.99Extras: Deleted ScenesThe Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to the Present"Let's Go Fly a Kite"Sneak PeeksDigital Copy

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