Inspired to sing-a-long

Last updated 07:02 12/02/2014

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Review: Saving Mr Banks (PG) 

Chances are some will love it so much they will want to sing along in the scenes where songs from the film are being performed. That's what the ladies in the aisle behind me were doing in the screening I attended. 

Every now and then a movie comes along that makes it impossible for some people to sit quietly in their seat and just watch the thing.

Hitchcock's Psycho is a classic example. Audiences had never seen anything like it before and when the infamous shower scene arrived some people screamed their heads off.

When Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ screened here in New Zealand some people found the experience so moving they kneeled in the aisles and prayed in tongues. No, I am not making this up.

The latest movie to get people doing things they don't normally do in a cinema is Saving Mr Banks.

Based on the true story of the making of the 1964 musical Mary Poppins, Saving Mr Banks stars Emma Thompson as the author PL Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.

The film opens in London in 1961. Travers is running short of funds and is being tempted to take up an offer by Disney to turn her 1934 bestseller into a film.

It turns out Disney has been trying to get her to sell him the rights for 20 years. After much grumbling Travers decides to head to California to explore the possibility.

As the story is told the film also regularly flashes back to Travers' childhood in Australia and focuses on her close relationship with her loving and imaginative but troubled father.

As played by Thompson, Travers is a punishingly particular woman who thinks nothing of making demands that occasionally border on the insane. Of course, the reason she is so hard on Disney and his talented, well meaning writers and musicians is that, as far as she is concerned, Mary Poppins is her family and the circumstances that led to her creation were emotionally taxing to say the least.

Directed by the maker of The Blind Side, John Lee Hancock, Saving Mr Banks is a lush looking, warm, nicely paced film about family, the creative process and letting go. Thompson is typically solid without being spectacular as Travers.

It's pretty much a one-note role for most of the film although you get the sense that beneath the frown and pursed lips the actress is having fun bossing everyone around.

Hanks practically glows as Disney and is impossible not to like in the part. After being ludicrously snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his stunning performance in Captain Phillips, it is nice to see him yet again being magic on screen.

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Colin Farrell is also terrific in the role of Travers' poetic yet desperate father and the always excellent Paul Giamatti brings some gentle humour to the film as the driver assigned to Travers during her time in California.

First and foremost Saving Mr Banks will be thoroughly enjoyed by fans of the 1964 film Mary Poppins starring Julie Andrews. Chances are some will love it so much they will want to sing along in the scenes where songs from the film are being performed.

That's what the ladies in the aisle behind me were doing in the screening I attended. They were a joyful bunch and, to be honest, I quite enjoyed listening to them singing songs like Chim Chim Cher-ee and Let's Go Fly a Kite.

I wasn't so keen on their constant commentary but the singing was fine.

The film will also appeal to anyone interested in the business of transferring stories from the page to the screen and fans of top acting.

Bottom line: a very well made movie.

- The Marlborough Express


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