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Snubbing Mr. Banks: Why This Cautionary Tale for Dads Is a Tough Sell for Hollywood

Annie Buckley as the young PL Travers and Colin Farrell as her dad

Annie Buckley as the young PL Travers and Colin Farrell as her dad

When the Oscar nods were issued today, my heart sank. What?! No nod for Saving Mr. Banks? How could this film have been dismissed by Hollywood?

Banks has been criticized for being self-serving — a Disney movie about the making of a Disney movie that happens to be having a 50th Anniversary and all that. Is this why it was overlooked? Many of the slams feel like they were written by people who watched it with those blinders already in place. It’s anything but self-serving — Banks is risky, at times self-critical, and even scarier for parents in the audience who have to face the facts: none of us are perfect. We will make mistakes, both big and small, that will leave varying amounts of scar tissue that will persist in the lives of our children. To be clear, this is not a self-congratulatory film, its a cautionary tale.

“You think Mary Poppins has come to save the children? Oh dear.”

For me, this had to be the most impactful line of the movie Saving Mr. Banks. For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet, I’m not giving much away by sharing with you those words. As I pointed out in this previous article well before the release of Banks, Mary Poppins didn’t come to save the children. She came for dad — and in the moments where I doubt myself most as a father, I sometimes wish a magical helper could appear at my door and save the day.

Banks is a story within a story within a story for any dad. It starts with this premise: Walt Disney made a promise to his daughters to turn the beloved Mary Poppins books into a movie. Subsequently, he pursued the quirky, sometimes downright unpleasant, stubborn and rude author for 20 years for the rights.

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney

“I have never, I swear, never broken a promise to either one of my Disney girls…That’s what being a daddy is all about right?” I love this quote by “Walt.” For me, that’s the essence behind Saving Mr. Banks: dads, daughters, and the promises made to one another and the importance of not breaking those promises. How we stand by our words and live our promises through our actions take on a significance we can’t always imagine. We hear the tale of how Walt’s own father’s actions, focusing more on building his business than caring about his kids, prompted Walt to be a very different father — and we see how Ginty’s (P.L. Travers nickname as a child) father crushed her heart by breaking promise after promise.

It’s why P.L. Travers invented the famous nanny in the first place; to save her father all fathers really from making the mistakes that will hurt their children irreparably. Unlike her Aunt Ellie who came too late to save her own father, Mary Poppins (“Never EVER just Mary”) who is portrayed as looking a lot like Ginty’s aunt, comes just in the nick of time to save Mr. Banks, and in the end the children have the father they have always wanted and deserved.

Dads, the bottom line is, this movie will invite you to examine your own life and to rededicate yourself to your role as father of your children. A well-known pastor I very much respect once said that we shouldn’t sacrifice the role only WE can play in the world for the role that ANYONE can. Anyone can be a pastor or bank manager or CEO or manager, but only YOU will be the father of your children. Don’t we have an obligation to live up to that as best as we can? Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a Mary Poppins in our lives, but maybe P.L. Travers will do in a pinch.

Find more of Craig’s writing on his blog!

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