Saving Mr. Banks

P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the persnickety British author of the Mary Poppins books, travels to Hollywood in the early 60s to supervise their adaptation into a live-action feature produced by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). Early rumors that this Walt Disney Pictures release would offer a glimpse of the real man—a selfish, demanding, and often unpleasant executive—turn out to be false, unless you want to count the shot in which Disney can be seen putting down a cigarette. Hanks captures his affected innocence and oily charm, though Thompson gives such a showy performance (“Pfft!” she exclaims periodically) that one expects her to open up an umbrella and float away. Screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith cross-cut laboriously between creative clashes on the Disney lot and Travers’s childhood in Australia, where she suffered the trauma of an alcoholic father (Colin Farrell); rest assured that, by the end, a little pixie dust will solve everything. John Lee Hancock directed; with Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, and Jason Schwartzman, quite funny as beleaguered songwriter Richard Sherman.