Saving Mr. Banks (2013) vs. Finding Neverland (2004)

October 1, 2013 Sarah Harding

Ah, the holiday season. What better time to take in a couple of films brimming with magic, wonder and childlike innocence? Especially when one whitewashes the story of a Machiavellian anti-Semite who played a role in the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, and the other glosses over some nasty allegations of pedophilia?

Of course, our two Smack opponents have more in common than just some behind-the-scenes ugliness. Both the newly released Saving Mr. Banks and Finding Neverland, a holiday offering from 2004, are also lovingly crafted odes to the transformative power of the imagination. Each sheds light on the creation of a brilliant and enduring children’s story, illustrating how the authors’ unhappy personal lives ignite their work. And both succeed so well on their own terms that they can be forgiven for their historical oversights. […]

The Return of the Kings: Gervais-Crystal Smackdown

January 13, 2012 Bryce Zabel

In our Hollywood family, Billy Crystal, in contrast to Ricky Gervais, is the really funny older brother or family friend who tells great stories, knows a couple of magic tricks for the kids, can lead with “Happy Birthday” or “Hava Nagila” when called upon and, when the kids are out of earshot, is renowned for his annual telling of some off-color joke that is perfectly calibrated to shock but not really offend anyone. You know he won’t cross the line, really, because he’s a good guest — he’s come to the last eight dinners and each one was a warm memory, even if you can’t quite remember one from the other. They all kind of blend together but he’s so nice and, besides, he’ll show up even if you ask him late because that cute guy from the office can’t make it after all. He’s Jay Leno-safe, except that he can also sing and dance. […]