Melissa Merli: Paxson perfectly sweet in her role
Gay and Randy Moore of Champaign can be proud of their daughter's work in the new movie "Saving Mr. Banks."
Melanie Paxson holds her own as one of Walt Disney's secretaries, acting with and reacting to the likes of Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman and others.
The Moores, family and friends saw the movie on opening night, Dec. 20, in Savoy. Afterward, they gathered to celebrate.
"They loved it," Gay Moore said. "And I got the nicest email from a friend in Florida who thought Melanie sparkled and did really well."
One critic, Debbie Lynn Elias of The Culver City Observer, even mentions Paxson in her review, saying the actress as Dolly epitomizes the sweet image of Disney in the 1960s.
I hadn't thought of that, but Elias is right.
Another critic wrote that all the actors in "Saving Mr. Banks," regardless of the size of their roles, "added so very much to every single scene they should all be applauded." Again, spot on.
The movie premiered on Dec. 9 at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif. Paxson took her husband, Andy, and her younger brother, Ryan Moore, to the "star-studded" event. Ryan Moore, 38, lives in California and is trying to break into acting, his mother told me.
Also at the premiere were Julie Andrews and Danville native Dick Van Dyke, the stars of "Mary Poppins." In "Saving Mr. Banks," younger versions of the two legends show up in scenes from the original "Poppins," one of the great children's movies.
"Saving Mr. Banks" is about how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) had to court persnickety writer P.L. Travers (a fantastic Emma Thompson) to persuade her to give him the rights to adapt her book "Mary Poppins" to the silver screen.
The reluctant Travers didn't want her creation to be turned into a "silly cartoon." And in "Saving Mr. Banks," she balks at the idea of Van Dyke being cast as Bert/Mr. Dawes Senior, sniffing at a screenwriter's comment that Van Dyke is "one of the greats."
"Saving Mr. Banks" is a bit schmaltzy, with lots of Disney-esque golden-sunshine moments, particularly in flashbacks to Travers' fraught childhood in Australia.
But it tells the story of a middle-aged woman writer, portrayed effectively by Thompson, and of the obstacles to adapting literature to film. And the movie has no explosions, violence or women as sex objects!
So far, "Saving Mr. Banks" is receiving good reviews for the most part. And it's the "biggest" movie in which Paxson has appeared.
She's also been in other movies, and TV sitcoms and numerous commercials.
"We're all really hoping this opens more doors for her," Gay Moore said.
Paxson told me during a telephone interview last month she hopes her work in "Saving Mr. Banks" leads to voice-over work in animated films. They're fun, and she could watch them with her 3-year-old son, Miller, she said.
She has the perfect voice for that kind of work — high-pitched, maybe a bit girlish — sort of like Megan Mullally's as Karen Walker on the TV sitcom "Will & Grace."
Gay Moore called her daughter's voice unique.
"People who know her say when she's appearing in a TV commercial and they're in another room, they run in to see it because they recognize her voice," she said.
By the way, some parents wonder if they should take their kids to see "Saving Mr. Banks." I'd say no; it's a film for adults. Instead, stay home and watch "Mary Poppins."