This is hardly any surprise, but Disney’s main operative nowadays seems less to continue bright creative legacy started by founder Walt Disney years ago, and more to stretch and reconstitute all the films existent under that legacy. That’s already been made clear by live-action prequel/sequel/remakes – I don’t even know the difference anymore – like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful. It’s noticeably sifted into Pixar’s framework recently with Cars 2 and Monsters University being maligned as mediocre and unnecessary extensions of their prior work.
So again, hardly any surprise that they’ve finally taken Walt Disney’s star image and committed it to contemporary cinema by way of a similarly affable figure, Tom Hanks. Not stopping there, they’re also likely giving rise to a whole new generation of Mary Poppins lovers, telling a behind-the-scenes story of how Walt convinced author P.L. Travers to allow him the rights to make a film out of her book. As it turns out, the story means a lot more to her than magic, children and twinkliness. “Mary Poppins was real?” Hanks says in dazzled, sentimentalized disbelief. So judging from the newly released trailer for Saving Mr. Banks, it’s a lot like last year’s Hitchcock, but fluffier… so quite possibly just as stale.
For physicality and general loveableness, Hanks is a pretty good fit for Disney, though I worry the dynamic between him and Thompson’s Travers will be in too obvious opposition. Making Travers a stuck-up prude in comparison to the always endearing Disney would not be a particularly wise move. What serves as a silver lining is the historical truth that Travers did not ultimately approve of Disney’s adaptation, so maybe director John Lee Hancock can balance the film’s peach-flavored aping of the classic Disney brand with some honest bitterness in the coda. Given that the studio hasn’t been known for being willing to rib themselves, though, I wouldn’t necessarily count on it.
As for Oscar and box office benefits, you can be assured they will be there. Families will likely clamor to this as happily as they were for Hancock’s last film, The Blind Side, which went on to earn a Best Picture nomination to accompany Sandra Bullock’s Best Actress win. Here you can probably expect Thompson to be in heavy consideration for Best Actress, as well as Hanks for Supporting Actor, since they’re likely to shortchange his work as secondary here. In the extended field that’s allowed Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Help in, you can probably expect a Best Picture nod to boot. Winning any of those, however, will be a long shot. Still, it’s a film about the man with the most Academy Award wins and nominations working on one of the most beloved childrens classics in early(ish) film history. You know it’s in the Academy’s wheelhouse. You can take a look at the trailer here, and then come back to debate whether or not it’s worth any of the Oscar consideration it’s already getting.