Craving Mr. Hanks.
125 Minutes. Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, B.J Novak, Bradley Whitford, Ruth Wilson & Colin Farrell. Director: John Lee Hancock.
What do you get if you take a mouse with extremely big ears and cross him with a flying nanny and a talking umbrella? You get the story behind Walt Disney turning acclaimed author P. L. Travers' 'Mary Poppins' sensational story into his super studios most magical film. We all know about the spoon-fulls of sugar and how the medicine goes down but supercalifragilisticexpialidocious the actual real story behind the tale of this amazing woman is truly something else and in John Lee Hancock's latest he plays John Lee Hooker, drawing us in and blind-siding us with 'Saving Mr. Banks'. The follow up to his acclaimed sports dramas and his own take on the story of 'Snow White' for a darker, modern age. Here, though Hancock takes it back like Herbie to the original story behind the tallest tales we all grew up with. In doing this he picks two of the 90's to now golden era icons to portray two of storytelling's greatest legends-albeit in different ways-of all time. As English as a pot of tea, Emma Thompson orders hers and brushes off the 'Nanny McPhee' warts and all to play the woman behind THE maid of honor. Everyone wants to read more into this story including the 'Captain Phillips' of an Oscar year, Tom Hanks himself. It's his season again like whats playing on your television movie nights right now from the late eighties to early new millennium stretch. Who else to play the great Walt Disney, than our leading man legendary icon? Setting sail to the mid-February love of the Academy, the only thing that could stop Hanks last film from hitting an award is well...him and this Walt.
The two stars give the man and woman story makers behind the childhood imagination of books and movies their just page in entertainment history. Sitting uncomfortably we begin with Thompson, whose Travers character won't give up her baby and story of Mary to the cartoon, all singing, all dancing penguin, pixie dust world of Disney and the Mickey Mouse empire without her rights and fight. There's much more behind the wonder and whimsy of this story that meets the suitable for all children eyes and without giving too much away, you really need to see for yourself what this is all really about and who Miss Poppins really came to save and just whether Mr. Disney can do the same for the woman who gave us the magical woman who came to make a difference in everyone's lives young and old. Some may see Thompson's character as a typical, typecast, English, posh snob, with a battleaxe heart and a take no prisoners, with no compliments or 'True Grit' sugar with her pronouncements, still there's much more to her than stereotype. Just like there's much more to one of the worlds most underrated and versatile leading ladies. 'Stranger Than Fiction' with 'Sense and Sensibility', the woman who had a wizardly turn through the 'Harry Potter' series leaves us truly spell-bound as we see what lies behind the words of the woman who wrote every child and critics acclaimed book and possibly the name of her portraying actress in the next gold award engraving. It's impossible not to like her no matter how tough she seems on an exterior that leaves everyone from 'West Wing' wonder (by recent way of the criminally cancelled, Californian classic 'Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip' and Marvel 'One Shot', 'Agent Carter', 'Captain America' spin-off) Bradley Whitford to the stellar singing team of Wes Anderson's favorite Jason Schwartzman and former punk turned good B.J. Novak looking inward for inspiration.
How much more inspiration do you need than the man behind Goofy and Minnie, played by the man behind Woody and Forrest Gump? Tom Hanks is just that great and right to play the ultimate movie-making man of all time. Hanks has almost as many classic credits as Walt himself, owing to Mr. Disney some of those films himself. Still, just as Hanks has done the Disney name proud in previous films, he does the man so here with no spoon-fulls to sugar coat the truth. Real and raw, the man behind the mustache twitching laughter is given the behind the smiles truth treatment this 'Movember'. This is what makes not only this month, but this year one of Hank's genuinely greatest. A leading man so legendary his 20th best film, let alone his 30th would be among some of today's so called greatest best work, Tom has given us two more to add to the top ten list of catalog consideration. As he ages like the finest acting wine, the truer the stories get the more genuine the talent of the every-man, Bruce Springsteen, American rock star of the movie world gets like the Academy's 'Philadelphia'. With no cheese and nothing spread thin, Hanks crafts the complexities of the man behind his character subtlety and sincerely with some truly moving moments of movie magic behind the fake facade of seeing fairies. 'Captain Phillips' is his new great port of call in all it's classic tense and claustrophobic elements, but even in a supporting role here, Hanks helps set this Disney story free. The book doesn't stop with great leading man here however as Paul Giamatti shows he is more than just a driver in this Disney vehicle. Chasing Phillip Seymour-Hoffman as ever and running down the character actor notion, Giamatti drives past his latest JFK 'Parkland' in a black Lincoln that is anything but cold and calculated for a wonderful week and perfect performance of warmth that sees past it's darker depths.
A darker turn that lies behind Disney and this story and it's inspiration. Yep, it's not all ice-cream smiles and innocent laughter in this kingdom for this P.G. film. What more could you expect from the man who killed Bambi's mother? Here you can see from the mothering eyes of 'The Lone Rangers' rising actress Ruth Wilson that Travers troubled but determined home-life inspired something much more deeper and meaningfully moving in Poppins' service to family. All of this will be pictured perfectly by one of yet another of the leading underrated and versatile A-list greats with more classic credits than critics give credence for. Playing Emma Thompson's father (yeah I know right?) Colin Farrell is truly terrific from his success and struggles of a worn suit and tie wearing man who just wants to bring enough money and happiness home from work that his family can bank on without too much debt. What lies beneath the spoils and statements really gives you an account on what this story is really about and Farrell is formidable in forging this from being the worlds most inspired, funnest father despite his inner, tragic turmoil . In an Oscar season that looks like a two horse race of Thompson and Hanks' leading men and woman or Hank's own pair of powerhouse pictures, the Academy shouldn't forget it's star pupil. A man who has overcome so much addictive troubled times in his own life shows just how much it affects a man here in a performance deeper than just a simple script. It's a story that's told out of necessity to both the original story and today's new message. Sure this is a comedy as much as it is a drama and there are a lot of laughs that go with an American legend of the Peter Pan, candy bar, sickly sweet generation and a woman who won't have their cake and eat it too, but behind the smiles the real story is crying out to be heard clearly in all our understanding. A story that shows this modern movie mainstream that doesn't hold back that it's time to take it back to what it's really about. Only then by way of a fitting times gone by homage Disney logo can we truly learn what our beloved Mary is all about in this history of traditional tales. To see the story we've been reading for generations in all it's chapter and verse. Now that's what Disney magic is really made of. TIM DAVID HARVEY.