Fat Birds

In a World…: written and directed by Lake Bell; starring Lake Bell (Carol), Rob Corddry (Moe), Alexandra Holden (Jamie), Ken Marino (Gustav), Demetri Martin (Louis), Fred Melamed (Sam), and Michaela Watkins (Dani) (2013): Lake Bell does triple duty on this Hollywood-centric comedy. And in her feature-film writing-and-directing debut, she really brings it.

Many of the delights of this film come from surprise, so I’ll just note that it’s primarily about Hollywood voiceover artists. You know, the voices you hear on movie ads, movie trailers, and in TV commercials. And it’s a real delight, a light-hearted industry satire that tackles feminist issues with intelligence and wit.

Bell is terrific as the protagonist, whose father is a great and hilariously self-important voiceover artist and who herself aspires to become the first great female voiceover artist. The supporting roles are all warmly written, with Rob Corddry getting his best film role ever as Bell’s brother-in-law. All this, and a weirdly plausible Young Adult movie named The Amazon Games, clips of which we see. Highly recommended.

Saving Mr. Banks: written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith; directed by John Lee Hancock; starring Emma Thompson (P.L. Travers), Tom Hanks (Walt Disney), Annie Rose Buckley (Ginty), Colin Farrell (Ginty’s Father), Paul Giamatti (Ralph), Bradley Whitford (Don DaGradi), B.J. Novak (Robert Sherman) and Jason Schwartzman (Richard Sherman) (2013): The often hilariously fractious relationship between Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers and Walt Disney, who’s been trying to make a movie of Travers’ novel since the 1940’s, makes for a pretty funny movie.

Of course, we also have the non-hilarious stuff detailing Travers’ childhood relationship with her troubled, alcoholic father in the Australian outback. The movie threads together this formative storyline with one involving Travers’ two-week stay in Hollywood as she worked with Disney writers while debating whether or not to sign over the rights to Mary Poppins to Disney.

The cast is excellent from top to bottom. Hanks probably deserved more recognition for his work as Disney, and Thompson is typically excellent as the prickly Travers. Colin Farrell is unusually sweet as Travers’ father. B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman play the songwriting Sherman brothers with understated humour. Paul Giamatti is particularly charming in what could have been a thanklessly sentimental role as the driver assigned to get Travers to and from her Beverly Hills hotel each day.

The movie plays fast and loose with certain facts of the movie’s development, but much of the film’s Hollywood portion really did happen. Really, the funniest thing the movie doesn’t address is Dick Van Dyke’s terrible attempt at a Cockney accent in the movie of Mary Poppins. There is  a reason Travers didn’t want him as Bert — even Van Dyke thought he was wrong for the part! Recommended.

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