To be honest, Mary Poppins was never one of my favorite Disney movies. I much preferred Bedknobs and Broomsticks and the animated films. One of the reasons for that is that I never quite understood what Mary Poppins was about; the music was brilliant, but the story seemed odd to me.
And that is where I fit into Saving Mr. Banks; no one gets what Mrs. Travers is trying to convey in her book. For years, I always thought Mary Poppins was about the children; then one day I saw a Simpsons parody on Mary Poppins, in which (thanks to Homer Simpson) I discovered that Mary Poppins was about the parents, particularly Mr. Banks, and getting his head out of being a workaholic and discovering the joy and value in his children.
So going in, in order to understand Saving Mr. Banks, one must first understand Mary Poppins.
So what is Saving Mr. Banks about? Is it about the brilliance of Walt Disney to bring this story to life; or is it about Mrs. Travers forgiving herself, and in other respects, her own father and mother and her aunt?
Perhaps the answer is simple to some and complicated to others. One of the reasons I never got Mary Poppins is because I could not relate to the situation Jane and Michael Banks were in. My parents were always around for my brother and I; they were never too busy for us; never caught up in their own fantasies; or burdened by their own faults for us. They were not perfect, but nor do my brother and I have to forget or recreate our childhoods in grand schemes to idealize them either.
On the other hand, many children are in that position. Mrs. Travers father was an alcoholic, so she has created a situation in Mary Poppins where he is the perfect father she now imagines him to be. The brilliance of Disney is that he takes her book, and instead of the glorified Mr. Banks she has created, he makes a troubled Mr. Banks, who is redeemed in the end.
At the end of Mary Poppins; the movie ends with Mr. Banks taking the children to the park to fly a kite; Mr. Banks, who previously had no time for the children, now sees value in them, and the need for a nanny, particularly Mary Poppins, is no more. Mr. Banks has been saved.
In reality, that does not always happen. There are stories where deadbeat fathers turn themselves around, but they are the rare exception. Many children are left with the images of a broken childhood, and like Mrs. Travers, take some of the blame upon themselves.
So in the end, both Mary Poppins and Saving Mr. Banks point us to our heavenly Father, who is always there for us; always around for us; always present to help us when we fall; who has no need of redemption Himself, but instead sends His one and only Son to redeem us from our faults and failures.
Much could be said about the actual movie Saving Mr. Banks: it would have been neat to have Dick Van Dyke and Julia Andrews make a cameo appearance in some way; it would have been cool for the movie to show the entire scene of Let’s Go Fly a Kite; and much as it pains me to say this, Tom Hanks was great as Walt Disney; overall, I found the movie to be fascinating as I had never heard of any of the background that went into making the movie.
Having said that, while I am sure someone is making money off of this, I find the movie strange. I was the youngest one in a relatively full theater; quite telling considering that Mary Poppins came out 20 years before I was born. Why did this movie come out now? What was the fascination with making this film?
Perhaps that to will forever remain a mystery. The story of Mary Poppins always seems to do that to me.