Based on the series of Nurse Matilda stories for young adults written by the late Christianna Brand, this quirky, uncommonly intelligent adaptation is a strange delight. Now that his seven demonically disobedient children have driven a total of 17 nannies from his employ — the most recent left screaming after the tykes fooled her into thinking they'd cooked and eaten their baby sister — widower Mr. Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) is on the brink of despair. Since the recent death of his wife, the children have grown increasingly uncontrollable, and with only the pretty scullery maid, Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald), to help him — florid-faced cook Mrs. Blatherwick (the great Imelda Staunton) refuses to even let the children step foot in her kitchen — Mr. Brown must find another nanny, and quick. His late wife's imperious aunt, Lady Adelaide Stitch (Angela Lansbury, making her first big-screen appearance in over 20 years), who's been supplementing Mr. Brown's mortician's salary with a monthly allowance, has given him one month to get his family back in shape. If he fails to find a new wife by the end of the month, she'll cut them off completely, condemning them all to a life of Dickensian misery in the workhouse. The agency in the cozy English country village where the Browns live claims to have no more nannies, but his prayers are answered one dark and stormy night when a booming knock at the front door announces the arrival of an unbidden Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson). With her drooping earlobes, bulbous nose, warty face and single, elongated tooth, spooky Nanny McPhee has more in common with Snuffy Smith than Mary Poppins, but she wields an unusual power over her young charges. With one firm rap on the floor from her gnarled shillelagh, the kids undo the mayhem they've unleashed in Mrs. Blatherwick's kitchen. The children suspect everything from hypnosis to witchcraft, but whatever the source of her magic, Nanny McPhee soon teaches the Brown brood how to not only behave, but behave wisely and responsibly. And while she refuses to interfere in matters of the heart, Nanny McPhee, who appears to grow less ugly with each lesson learned, manages to guide the children in their plan to thwart their father's desperate plan to woo and wed the tacky and cruel Mrs. Selma Quickly (Celia Imrie). While not quite as morbid as LEMONY SNICKET, there are still enough corpses and coffins lying about Mr. Brown's mortuary to spook the wee ones, and the depiction of older women as grotesque hags is an unfortunate lesson apparently learned from Roald Dahl. Kids ages 10 and up, however, will adore it, and adult aesthetes will surely love Michael Howells' imaginative production design. The interiors are tarted up like a Haight-Ashbury painted lady, lit by black light and shot through Tiffany glass.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: PG
- Review: Based on the series of Nurse Matilda stories for young adults written by the late Christianna Brand, this quirky, uncommonly intelligent adaptation is a strange delight. Now that his seven demonically disobedient children have driven a total of 17 nannies… (more)