Nanny McPhee

When the cast of a film includes Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Imelda Staunton, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, and Angela Lansbury, people should take notice. When said film is a children's film, people should look even closer. This site often rails against the sorry state of children's films in today's marketplace. Grown-up filmmakers seem to think that children are idiots, and that any film suitable for them should be moronic. So while kids may enjoy it, it is sure to piss off the parents that go with them. Which is why Nanny McPhee is so different, and why these actors chose to take roles in the film. It's actually worth watching. Nanny McPhee, based on the Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda books, are full of imagination, moral lessons, and surprising emotion. Here is a film that the entire family can enjoy together.

Thompson (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Love Actually) adapted the novel and stars as the titular character, a horrid looking nanny with strange powers. She has a huge tooth sticking out of her mouth, unibrow, a bulbous nose, and some nasty warts complete with hairs. However, she is just what the Cedric Brown (Colin Firth, Where the Truth Lies, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) needs. He is a single father raising seven rambunctious kids. Brown works all day while the children run amok at home. Brown's evil Great Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury, Anastasia, Beauty and the Beast) is helping the Brown's with an allowance, and without it, the Browns would lose their house. She demands that Brown marry within a month. While the children are in the dark about this deal, they know they don't want their father to remarry. All of the stepmothers they know of from fairy tales are evil.

It's small touches like this that director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine) that distinguish Nanny McPhee from other films. They kids may be demon spawn, but they mean well. One of the children, Eric (Raphael Coleman) is a bespectacled inventor who says things like "we're convalescing." It's adorably cute and also adds a quirky sensibility to the film. The colors are bright, sometimes garishly so, but it adds to a weird, fairytale-like feeling. Jones and Thompson mix things like a food fight and other standard scenes that will make children laugh, with a genuinely dark and meaningful story - Brown is trying to prevent his family from breaking apart. There is a genuine sense of dread, because something bad could actually happen. But this also means that the inevitable happy ending will feel even better. Yes, the ending is easy to predict, and it is even easier to predict what happens to Evangeline (Macdonald, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Finding Neverland), the maid who has a crush on Brown.

Nanny McPhee is the eighteenth nanny for the Brown children, who, under the direction of the eldest, Simon (Thomas Sangster, Tristan and Isolde, Love Actually) drove each one out. McPhee appears out of nowhere, to a relieved Brown. She has five lessons to teach the children, and all she asks is that she get Sunday afternoons off. The children immediately set out to undermine her, but they are no match for her. McPhee is calm, collected, and always gets her way without forcing it upon the kids. And little does Brown know that she is also there to help him. Thompson manages to gives some very nice lessons for kids to follow, sneaking them into the story so that it feels natural, and not like a lecture.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated PG for mild thematic elements, some rude humor, and brief languge.

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