Nanny McPhee was a charming, well-written family film full of good laughs, first-rate performances, and inventive costumes and art direction that had a strong moral for both kids and parents. The sequel, though still often amusing and full of good cheer, doesn’t measure up.
With World War II well under way, Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) cares for her three children on a run-down, excrement-covered farm in the English countryside as her husband fights overseas. When her snooty niece and nephew arrive in order to avoid the bomb attacks on the city, the different sets of siblings immediately begin feuding. Before Isabel loses complete control of the house and the kidlets, magical Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives to teach the kids important lessons and set everything right -- including Isabel’s scheming brother-in-law, who’s trying to sell the struggling farm out from under her.
The first 20 minutes or so of the movie are everything the first Nanny McPhee wasn’t -- loud, annoying, and full of poop jokes. However, once the setup is complete, the movie settles into a warm, reassuring rhythm where the kids learn the lessons they need to, and the adults in turn learn that they could be better parents.
There are solid supporting turns by Dame Maggie Smith as their mother’s dotty old friend; Ralph Fiennes as the strict military commander father of the bratty city kids; and Rhys Ifans as the unctuous brother-in-law. Thankfully, the kid actors become more appealing as the movie goes on, especially Eros Vlahos, whose makes uber-snotty Cyril a pocket-sized version of all upper-class British twits. And the script by Emma Thompson lets us know that bad kids usually have a reason for acting the way they do, making us like all the tykes even more.
In an unexpected development, all of the bathroom jokes actually lead to a major plot point -- a deus-ex-burpia, if you will -- that makes you realize the script, and the movie, are better than you first thought. Nanny McPhee Returns can’t hold a candle to the original -- which is worth seeking out if you’re looking for smart and funny family films -- but anyone who was charmed the first time around should enjoy seeing the character yet again, and it’s made with more care and craft than most family-oriented flicks out there.
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- Released: 2010
- Rating: PG
- Review: Nanny McPhee was a charming, well-written family film full of good laughs, first-rate performances, and inventive costumes and art direction that had a strong moral for both kids and parents. The sequel, though still often amusing and full of good cheer, d… (more)