Disney movies walk a fine line between warm-and-fuzzy feel-goodery and all-out cheese, but few straddle the line as frustratingly as Saving Mr. Banks. This is, after all, a film that casts Tom Hanks as Walt Disney himself, struggling to get Mary Poppins made by awakening the inner child of prim, proper and persnickety British author P.L. Travers, played with eccentric hilarity by the great Emma Thompson. There's considerable joy to be had in The Blind Side director John Lee Hancock's depiction of 1960s Hollywood, and in watching Travers slowly seduced by the infectious songs that made Poppins a classic. Alas, Travers suffers more flashbacks than Timothy Leary. Each time the film hits a stride, we're forced back to turn-of-the-century Australia to witness her upbringing with her whimsically alcoholic dad (Colin Farrell, definitely playing to character). These endless flashbacks take the wind out of the film like a rip in a kite. For all its considerable joy and fantastic performances, Saving Mr. Banks gets greedy: It starts out tugging at the heartstrings but, with its strained sentimentality, eventually tears a ventricle.
Critic's Grade: C
SEE IT: Saving Mr. Banks is rated PG-13. It opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Oak Grove, Cinema 99, Bridgeport, Tigard, City Center, Division, Hilltop, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Sherwood.