Saving Mr. Banks



Sweet peek behind Poppins story, with very dark moments.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: December 20, 2013
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

To some degree, the idea that sticking to one's principles is more important than money or fame is part of the story. Also, that it's important to find a way to heal from past emotional wounds.

Positive role models

P.L. Travers is incredibly devoted to her fictional creation, Mary Poppins, and won't permit Walt Disney to make a movie about the famed magical nanny unless it meets her exacting specifications. Despite Disney's incredible charm, Travers refused to budge, not until she's assured he won't tinker too much with the character.


A woman almost commits suicide by walking into a river in front of her daughter. A man argues loudly with his co-worker within earshot of his child. A sick man is shown in bed, hacking up blood.

Not applicable

"Damn" and "hell" are as rough as it gets here.


The entire film promotes the classic Disney movie Mary Poppins, as well as the commercial aspects of the Disney empire, though it's all in a historical context.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A father can't control his cravings for alcohol and literally drinks himself to death, leaving his family in despair. Walt Disney is a secret cigarette smoker.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while Saving Mr. Banks is about the making of a classic family movie, some of the topics -- alcoholism, suicide, and a difficult childhood -- might be tough for younger kids to handle. While there are plenty of lighthearted moments to entertain tween and teen viewers, the surprisingly sad moments can be a bit jarring -- including a very sick man on his deathbed and a woman attempting suicide in front of her daughter. Parents should consider whether kids are ready for these subjects -- or if they'd even enjoy a movie that bounces back and forth between silly and serious.

What's the story?

P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the notoriously picky author of Mary Poppins, is fiercely protective of her literary creation, and has little interest in letting Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) turn it into one of his cheerful family films, especially if there will be any frolicking or animated penguins. The film is interspersed with scenes from Travers' childhood in Australia, as her beloved father (Colin Farrell) gradually succumbs to alcoholism, an episode that still haunts her and has clearly influenced her writing. SAVING MR. BANKS charts the evolution of this father and daughter relationship, as Disney slowly wins her over and convinces Travers that her cherished character will be safe in his hands. Even with cartoon penguins.

Is it any good?


Saving Mr. Banks is lovely in many ways, including its lead actors, Thompson and Hanks, who are irresistibly winning. But it's a tale of two stories, both of which are indulged, making for a tonally uneven film. To start, the movie Mary Poppins is a fairy tale. The story behind the movie resembles a fairy tale of sorts here, too, as the prickly writer is shown gradually lowering her guard and letting the talented studio writers and Disney win her over for a happily ever after. But a happily ever after it apparently wasn't. The real Travers was famously displeased with the movie version of her book, and it appears the fight may have been more contentious than what we see. And the film ends swiftly in a somewhat saccharine moment, diminishing the potency of previous battles shown leading up to the standoff.

More problematic is how the film mixes scenes from Travers' Australian childhood that are melancholy, bordering on despairing, with comedic moments capturing the Travers-Disney tug-of-war. Had the filmmakers committed to one (the negotiations between Travers and Disney) or the other (Travers' hardscrabble past) more fully, it would've coalesced into a greater whole. A spoonful of sugar turned into a cupful here, undoing the good the medicine would have done.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Travers' character. Why is Travers so protective of Mary Poppins? How much of the story seems to be based on her own life? What do you think she learns from the process?

  • Do you think the movie is entirely factual? How can you find out what the truth is? Is there always one real truth or does it depend on perspective or opinion?

  • If you wrote a story that was going to be turned into a movie, what aspects would you be willing to change -- or not change?

  • Is this a movie for kids? Is there anything that kids can learn from this movie? Does anything touch on issues that kids aren't ready to handle?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 13, 2013
DVD release date:March 18, 2014
Cast:Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, Tom Hanks
Director:John Lee Hancock
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Topics:Book characters, History
Run time:125 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic elements including some unsettling images

This review of Saving Mr. Banks was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 8, 11, and 13 year old Written byKindness Girl December 22, 2013


I think the TV ads for this movie are incredibly misleading and I think it is unfortunate that Disney is pushing the movie on the Disney channel, which is watched by children. I usually do much more research when I take children to the movies, but I did not with this one and I regret it. I would not take any child under 14 to this movie. I imagine that by the time children are 16, they would already be exposed to the troubling themes in the movie -- alcoholism, death by alcohol, attempted suicide, family dysfunction... As an adult, I found the movie interesting, but I am telling everyone I know that it is not for children. Very deceptive advertising. Shame on you, Disney!
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written bymoviebuff6996 December 23, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks is a sincere film filled with great performances.(4.25/5 stars)

The Positives are the storyline (It’s both interesting and totally engaging. I’m glad they decide to tell this story with sincere intentions and plenty of depth to spare), the acting (Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson give great performances that are both accessible and emotionally attachable. Emma Thompson will get an Academy Award nomination for she truly did a good job in her role.), the music (Thomas Newman did a great job with the score. It sounds great and is one of the year’s best composed soundtracks. It will probably get a well deserved Academy award nomination.), the dialogue (It’s well written and often times is engaging and funny.), the character development (The characters were well fleshed out and I liked how Travers didn’t transform into a nice old lady which would’ve been extremely clichéd if she had) the cinematography (It was very good and filmed with stunning camera angles.), the costume design (It looked nice and fit the time period of the 1960’s well.) and finally the movie is extremely likable (I left the theater with a smile on my face). The only negatives are the tone (The movie goes back and forth from being a tragic story when Travers was younger to an upbeat story when she was trying to get her book made into a faithful movie. This was very distracting and took away from the movie.) And the pace (It was a little bit slow at times.). Still I would highly recommend this film. -Brief language, attempted suicide and some occasional mild language are the only problems.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 9 and 11 year old Written byMovie Mama C December 18, 2013


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