December 20, 2013 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Saving Mr. Banks' offers more sugar than medicine

Tom Hanks imbues Walt Disney with expected warmth as he lobbies Emma Thompson's P.L. Travers to let him adapt 'Mary Poppins.' (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

“Saving Mr. Banks” is a perfectly pleasant little movie, but don’t bring the kids.

Not that anything racy goes on — this is a film about the making of “Mary Poppins,” after all. But it’s hard to imagine most youngsters getting excited about a movie involving the making of an old movie.

No, the target audience here is assumedly baby boomers who enjoyed “Mary Poppins” when it came out and who may harbor warm feelings for the man behind its creation, Walt Disney. Uncle Walt (played with expected warmth by Tom Hanks) comes across as a heck of a nice guy here. But then again, this is a Disney movie.

Turns out P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson, playing a bit broad), the woman who wrote the book the film was based on, only let it be made because she was low on money. For years she avoided Disney’s entreaties — it was his daughters’ favorite book — to approve a screenplay. When she finally succumbs and flies from London to Los Angeles to oversee the production, she turns out to be a stickler of the highest order — appalled by the movie’s songs and incensed at the inclusion of animation.

We find out why she’s so protective as the film follows her life as a young girl with an alcoholic father (Colin Farrell) and suicidal mother (Ruth Wilson) whose life is set somewhat straight by an orderly aunt (Rachel Griffiths in too brief a role) who resembled you-know-who.

The sap doesn’t run too thick, although it does run, and the movie certainly has a patented Disney upbeat feel much of the time. It’s more a spoonful of sugar than medicine for aging baby boomer’s souls.

'Saving Mr. Banks'

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images

Running time: 125 minutes

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