Written by Emma Thompson
Directed by Kirk Jones
Running Time: 1:38
for mild thematic elements,
some rude humor and brief language.
Nanny McPhee was a fun, if somewhat predictable, fairy tale that is sure to delight children and not make their parents go running from the theater.
Cedric Brown is a widow with seven young children. The children are extremely unruly and so far have managed to make seventeen nannies run away screaming. Mr. Brown has problems of his own. Aunt Adelaide has been giving him money for years to help with the finances, but since the death of his wife, Adelaide has told him if he doesn't get married soon, she will cut him off. Also, she has taken it upon herself to help him out by taking one of the children! Mr. Brown is at the end of his rope when from out of the blue appears Nanny McPhee, a hideous looking woman who has a few surprises up her sleeve. Or rather, in her walking stick.
There was nothing new in the story of Nanny McPhee. A bunch of rebellious kids get straightened out and learn lessons due to the mysterious new woman who shows up at the front doorstep one night. There were secondary story lines dealing with the servant who was in love with Mr. Brown (and he with her) but neither one able to tell the other. And there was the over-the-top scary woman who Mr. Brown would be forced to marry to keep the money coming in from Aunt Adelaide. This kind of movie has been done time and time again. But if done correctly, it can be entertaining, and I think this movie pulls it off. First off, you have three acclaimed actors in Emma Thompson, Angela Lansbury and Colin Firth as your stars. That immediately gives the movie legitimacy. You also have an Oscar winning screenwriter adapting the script (Emma Thompson again), which certainly helps. And you have seven delightful, if somewhat criminal, children running amok, but still being cute.
The one thing that really made this movie stand out was the vibrant colors. I know that's strange to say in this kind of movie, but the set design and costumes were spectacular. Everything from the run down house with its bright greens and blues, to the insane costumes at the wedding scene, were amazing and really made the movie stand out. Sometimes in these kinds of movies everything looks drab and worn out, but even though you could see that the house was falling apart, everything still looked sharp and colorful. I have to say, this is one of the few times I was impressed with costumes and a set and were it not January, and a children's film, I'd tout this movie has having Oscar potential in those categories.
As I said before, the story is extremely predictable, but the route it took to get to the ending was enjoyable. The kids, however, were a lot meaner than kids I've seen before. They did some truly horrendous things in the movie, including beating the cook over the head with a pan. That seemed a bit too violent for my tastes, especially as I was sitting in a packed theater with a lot of children. I understand it's a movie and believe me, I'm not one for any kind of censorship, but things like that I'm not sure should be in this kind of film. Between that and tying the cook up and creating some kind of bomb was a little too much. The little things like putting a worm in a finger sandwich or a frog into a teapot, those were fun. And the fact that the father worked in a morgue and we got to see dead bodies lying on the table? Now personally, I thought that was rather funny, but I'm not sure how a child would take something like that.
My only other real issue was that no one seemed to think it odd that Nanny McPhee could do strange things. Yes, the children brought it up once in a while, but everyone took it in stride that she had magical powers. I thought the acting was wonderful and at times completely wild. Firth had the character down pat and Lansbury, who I haven't seen in years, was a delight as the demented (and visually impaired) aunt. Thompson was restrained as the titular character, but she showed a steely resolve that eventually persuaded the children to listen to her. There were a couple of characters, the two morgue workers, that didn't serve much of a purpose, but for the most part this movie is about the children and their learning to deal with the death of their mother. So as long as you like kids, you'll like the movie.
DVD extras include a handful of deleted scenes (one of which re-interprets a scene as an old non-sound black & white film) a look into how they created the makeup of Nanny McPhee, a gag reel and a few other goodies. I will say that the brilliant visuals do lose something when shown on a normal television set, but I suppose with a lot of people having plasma screens and the like, you people will still get the same look as in theaters. But for those of us with televisions bought in the early 90s, the colors get a bit muted. All in all, it doesn't take anything away from the entertainment of the film, which is still cute and fun.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked Nanny McPhee. While the story was nothing new, the look and feel of the movie made it a step above most children's film. It was well acted and looked stunning, and the extremely colorful food fight at the end will have everyone leaving the theater happy.
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