*** out of ****
Director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) delivers another piece of slick, well-crafted sentimentality with Saving Mr. Banks.
The film tells the story of Walt Disney's (Tom Hanks) efforts to convince Australian-born British author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to sell him the rights to Mary Poppins. Travers is unimpressed by Disney's whimsical films and he has to lay the charm on thick to convince her he'll do right by her work.
Detractors could argue (with justification) that the film is little more than a PR exercise showing the world that the magical power of Disney can melt even the coldest, most cynical hearts. However, the movie still works because Hanks and Thompson make full use of their considerable charisma and turn the film's central relationship into something that's genuinely entertaining. The strong supporting cast is also full of ringers like Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, and Luther's Ruth Wilson. Scenes involving the creative process of adapting the book to film provide an interesting look behind the curtain to see how a book gets translated into film.
It may not actually be the best film of the year, but Saving Mr. Banks is the well-made but safe film that usually does very well at Oscar time.