Saving Mr Banks: Thompson shines as Poppins' prim creator
Actress' role as PL Travers is worthy of an Oscar, but Disney film about Walt Disney is 'sanitised'
EMMA THOMPSON has a genuine shot at an Oscar thanks to a "bravura performance" as PL Travers, the prickly Australian-born author who created Mary Poppins, the Daily Telegraph says.
Thompson stars opposite Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in Saving Mr Banks, the true story of Disney's efforts to persuade a reluctant Travers to allow him to turn Mary Poppins into a 1964 movie.
Lured to Hollywood from her London home to discuss the project, Travers is affronted by LA's weather and its denizens' food, manners and speech. Most of all, she is horrified by Disney's plans to turn Poppins into a musical featuring animated penguins and a more sympathetic version of her flying nanny.
The "testy stand-off" between Travers and Disney is an engaging "cat-and-mouse game", writes the Telegraph's David Gritten. "But it's Thompson as the heroically unbiddable Travers who makes the most of it; her bravura performance effectively dominates the film."
Not everyone is as enthusiastic about the movie, which had a red carpet premiere at the closing night of the London Film Festival last night. The Independent agrees that Thompson gives a "fine performance", but says the idea of Disney making a film about its founder feels "sanitised and disingenuous".
"Although the idea was initially developed by BBC Films, this is the Disney version of how Disney made Mary Poppins," the paper says.
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw agrees, describing the movie as "a warmly, in fact outrageously sentimental and self-congratulatory film". Bradshaw says it is Hanks who steals the show by communicating Disney's "snake oil charm and hint of steel".
"Without him [Hanks], this would be pretty bland," he writes.
Audiences will be more forgiving of a Disney film about Walt Disney than critics, says the Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin. They're likely to "swallow this tasty spoonful of sugar without complaint" and a "most delightful box-office result should be expected".
Felperin singles out Thompson for praise, noting that while Meryl Streep was originally mooted for the role, Thompson makes it her own. She inhabits the "waspish" Travers with an authority that "makes you wonder how anybody else could ever have been considered".
Variety prefers Hanks' performance, praising the way he captures all of Walt Disney's "folksy charisma and canny powers of persuasion — at once father, confessor and the shrewdest of businessmen".
Saving Mr Banks opens in the UK on 29 November ·