New movie releases this week include Katherine Heigl’s return to the big screen, plus The Promise, Truman, and more
Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., April 21
Walt Disney spent over 20 years of his life struggling to bring author P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins to the screen. As if the story behind the making of Uncle Walt’s greatest commercial success didn’t provide enough fodder to craft a compelling narrative, screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith squander half of director John Lee Hancock’s film in dreary flashback, serving up a beanpole backstory concerning Travers’s alcoholic father who died of consumption. Live-action Disney by any other name. Emma Thompson’s cartoonish take on the fussy Ms. Travers proves one must be Cruella to be kind, and Tom Hanks is probably the only actor in America the studio would trust in the role of venerated showman. Worth it for production designer Michael Corenblith’s spot-on recreation of the Disney empire in the early '60s and B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman’s whimsical performances as the “Poppins” pair of songwriting siblings, Richard and Robert Sherman. 2013.