Disney brings us this film about the making of its film Mary Poppins. The story, presumably based on anecdotal and early spooled recordings of the early development stages depicted in the film, tells of the hot cold relationship between Walt Disney himself (Tom Hanks) and the writer of Mary Poppins Pamela L Travers (Emma Thompson), a woman more English and stern sounding than the original voice of the speaking clock or indeed the woman who voices the elevator at Belsize Park Underground Station. The film compares the development of the story we know and love in the Disney classic with Travers own upbringing, specifically her relationship with her father; hence the significance of the Mr Banks character whom he symbolises.
In his second big production of the year after Captain Phillips, Hanks presents an uncomplicated and down to earth Disney, whilst Thompson does the character she does best, posh Britannic matriarch. If she hadn’t been cast in the role, then I imagine Helena Bonham Carter would have been a close second choice. And I found it odd that Disney themselves should present this movie. Had it been another producer one would have been impressed with their admiration for the film and its birth. However, instead, I couldn’t shift my preconception that this was Disney “bigging itself up”. Consequently it comes over as gushingly over sentimental and despite the fact that the film itself was great, this ruined it for me! And by the end I wondered whose film Mary Poppins was? Travers? The publics? No! You are left without doubt that Disney is more than a commercial machine – it is the saviour of everybody’s childhood and don’t you forget it!
Much of the film depends not only on you having seen the original film but to be very familiar with it to get the “in” jokes. As a period piece (early 60’s) it’s rewarding in decor, costume and appearance. The underscore (supervised by original Poppins composer Robert Sherman) revisits Poppins leitmotif with interesting effect. But I can’t help feeling the entire film should be an extra on the Mary Poppins DVD rather than a creation its own right. Fun for Poppins fans but there it ends.