Saturday, August 21, 2010

Movie Review: Nanny McPhee Returns

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When you watch Mary Poppins, you hope that you could get that wonderful nanny who would blow into town and make your life all better. Well apparently Mary just deals with groups of two. For larger situations, you call on Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson). In the 2005 original she dealt with seven brothers and sisters who had lost their mother and had scared off seventeen other nannies. This go around there are five children, three from one family belonging to Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a brother and sister who are cousins with all five children causing pandemonium which is why Nanny McPhee Returns. Please note, small "c" and big "P". Thank you very much!

Isabel is trying to hold it all together. She's working at a store, struggling to keep the family farm running and keep hope alive in her children as their father and her husband is off at war. She's attempting to keep at bay her brother in law Phil (Rhys Ifans) who owns half the farm with his military brother and wants to make money by selling the farm. Top that off with the arrival of her niece and nephew from the city and you have one overwhelming situation but Isabel won't admit that.

Nanny McPhee arrives just in time, saying that she's from the War Department with her services being paid for by the Army as it's implied that this is occurring during World War II. She immediately steps up to the plate to teach the children five lessons right away. "When you need me but do not want me then I must stay; when you want me but no longer need me, I have to go." she tells the children. Of course she manages to impart her practical life lessons and moves on. You don't get recommend by drawers, pots, boots and tea cups if you can't accomplish the required task. Getting the approval of inanimate objects would seem to be a rather high compliment!

Taken over from Kirk Jones, director Susanna White gives us a set design and look of the film are very similar to the original. Even the camera shots of the first time the title character is on screen showing her wart, uni-brow and snaggle tooth and then full face is identical between the two movies. Being set on a farm, the family house isn't quite as colorful as the Brown's house in the original but the adults clothing, other than Nanny McPhee's is rather colorful. The English country side is beautiful.

Emma Thompson once again delivers a fine performance as the caster of magic that teaches the children. Through the story a little of Nanny McPhee's history is shown so while we don't know her full story, there are a few rays of light cast giving us those brief glimpses. Ifan as Uncle Phil to the children shows us a different side of his acting. We usually see him as whacked out, care free, let's party and have a good time character. As Phil it was a nice change to see Ifan play a bit of a high stung and uptight man with curly hair and not his usual frizzed out straight hair worried about what might happen to him. Who seemed to be out of place was Gyllenhaal. All of the other adult actors were from England. She's the only one that wasn't and it seemed a bit out of place without a British accent but other than that incongruity, delivered a fine performance.

The story line was pretty straight forward for a children's movie. There was whimsy and magic along with some rude humor (mostly poop jokes), language and mild thematic elements with the kids dealing with war time dad issues that many children of today's soldiers are handling earning the movie a PG rating for its 109 minute run time. The credits are visually interesting to watch as they seemed to mix two different mediums together and at the very end there is an easter egg.

Rumors are that there will be a third movie. Thompson who wrote both movies off of the Christianna Brand Nurse Matilda stories hinted there might be. I would like to see that with the couple of reveals about Nanny McPhee moving the story into a trilogy will give an opportunity to explore and cast some more light on the nanny's magic. Here's wishing for a good box office and a third installment!

The Movie Monkey

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