Review: ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

Walt Disney Pictures

Ever since I can remember I have been surrounded by films such as The Aristocats, Winnie the Pooh (my absolute favorite- I have the tattoo to prove it), The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, etc. etc. etc. I had Disney bed sets and costumes and too many stuffed animals to keep up with. I have multiple soundtracks and Disney’s Greatest Hits compilation albums, numerous coloring books, and Disney Princess Candy Land. I grew up with Disney.

I’m telling you this, dear reader, to give you a fair warning before you continue so kindly reading: I am biased. This review is filled with complete and utter bias.

From the moment I first saw the trailer to Saving Mr. Banks over the summer I instantly started excitedly rambling to my friends, parents, and anyone else who would listen about this film I had not yet seen. “It’s going to win Oscars,” I said. “Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, how could this not be amazing?” And after it’s been playing in theaters for nearly a month, tonight I finally went out and saw Saving Mr. Banks. 

And it was everything I thought it would be.

The film is the true story of how Walt Disney, played by the always marvelous Hanks, convinces P. L. Travers to let him turn her Mary Poppins children’s books into the movie we all know and love. Travers, portrayed superbly by Thompson, is a piece of work. She’s stubborn and stuck-up, making her interactions with Disney and his poor employees hilariously awkward as the two parties try to reach a compromise that will more or less please them both.

Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks is full of heart. As Disney tries to reason with the demands Travers has regarding the movie (such as no animation, no singing, and absolutely no color red), the emotional connection Travers maintains with her character Mary Poppins is revealed to the audience through heartbreaking flashbacks of a troubled childhood and father who is more or less Mr. Banks himself. Just try not to cry.

Thompson has already achieved a Golden Globe nomination for her role. And she, along with Hanks, are bound to get Oscar nods as well.

It’s pure and simple: this is a film Disney fans like myself have dreamed about. It’s pure magic.

Is Disney ‘Frozen?’

Frozen

Life during winter break is dull. For almost two weeks I’ve been doing nothing but binge-watching Breaking Bad and desperately trying to finish reading Under the Dome before I return to Columbia in mid-January. When I do leave the house, chances are it’s going to be for the movie theater. Coming into break I made a list of nine movies I wanted to see over these next five weeks of boredom. On that list- Dallas Buyers Club, Catching Fire (for a second time), American Hustle, Anchorman 2, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Wolf of Wall Street, Saving Mr. Banks, and the topic of today’s post: Frozen.

Yesterday I finally ventured out and saw Frozen, Disney’s latest animated film loosely based on the fairy tale The Snow Queen. The movie follows Anna and Elsa, sisters and princess of the kingdom Arendelle. All is well for the sisters until an accident causes Elsa to fear the power she holds to manipulate ice and snow, leading her to shut out all those close to her and essentially live her life in isolation. Despite her attempts over the years to control her powers, Elsa’s secret gets out the day of her coronation and she accidentally plunges the kingdom into an eternal winter. Fearing hurting those around her, she flees into the mountains and it’s up to Anna, with a little help from mountain man Kristoff and his reindeer Sven, to save the frozen land of Arendelle.

When I first saw the Frozen trailer over the summer, I thought it looked god-awful. Horrible. Atrocious. I told my friends, “This looks just like Tangled, but in Norway and with an obnoxious snow man.” I had no intention of seeing it. But when it finally did come out at the end of November, I heard nothing but good things about it, which sparked my curiosity.

Let’s get one thing straight: Frozen is not a bad movie. It’s filled with catchy songs, goofy characters, and beautiful animation. I was wrong about it being awful, but it’s nowhere near Disney’s best. It’s a cute story; it’s just the same story that Disney always seems to be falling back on.

Look back on the three most recent Disney princess movies: Tangled, Brave, and now Frozen. All are good movies, I’d even call Tangled fantastic, but it’s all too clear that all three of these films tell the same story.

1. Each follows a princess who somehow feels isolated. In Tangled, the isolation is obvious with Rapunzel being locked up in a tower with only a chameleon for company. The isolation is apparent in Frozen as well, with a disgruntled Anna living in a castle whose doors are perpetually closed to everyone. In Brave, Merida’s mother tells her exactly how she should act, making her feel invisible, misunderstood, and, well, isolated.

2. In Tangled and Frozen, the princess goes on an adventure across the kingdom with a guy that she eventually falls in love with. I get it, I get it, everybody loves a love story. But please, try to change it up a little. This is where I have to applaud Brave– the romantic interest is taken out of the formula.

3. There is always a last minute save. At the end of Tangled, Brave, and Frozen, there is a point where things are not looking good for the characters. Whether it’s when Eugene/Flynn nearly dies after Gothel stabs him, when the sun rises and Merida’s mother still hasn’t turned back into a human, or when Anna’s frozen heart turns her into an ice statue, there’s always a moment of bleakness where the other characters are crying and everything looks hopeless. But this is Disney, and unhappy endings don’t exist. Just as everything seems hopeless, the power of true love swoops in and saves the day, saving the lives of the precious characters and restoring everything to how it should be.

Again, I’m not trying to bash on Disney or on these three movies, I honestly think that Tangled is the last truly great Disney movie made. But Disney seems frozen on this specific formula of movie-making.

So to you, Disney, I implore you: in the future, please change things up a little. Move away from the princesses. Ditch the “true love saves everything at the last second always” mentality. I want to see something different.