Nanny McPhee
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Kirk Jones
scr Emma Thompson
with Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Angela Lansbury, Thomas Sangster, Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie, Derek Jacobi, Patrick Barlow, Eliza Bennett, Raphael Coleman, Jenny Daykin, Sam Honywood, Holly Gibbs, Adam Godley, Claire Downes
release UK 21.Oct.05, US 27.Jan.06
05/UK Universal 1h37

A spoonful of sugar: Colin Firth and three of the kids

thompson macdonald lansbury
See also:
Nanny McPhee Based on Christianna Brand's Nurse Mathilda books, this whimsical and wonderfully nasty children's tale is thoroughly enjoyable, if not hugely notable. And it has an edgy unpredictability that raises it above most kids' movies.

After his wife dies, undertaker Mr Brown (Firth) is struggling to care for their seven unruly children, led by eldest son Simon (Sangster) to heights of mischief that have seen off 17 nannies in rapid succession, while keeping the lovelorn maid (Macdonald) and spiky cook (Staunton) on their toes. Now the scary-looking Nanny McPhee (Thompson) arrives, using a bit of magic to whip the kids, and grown-ups, into shape. But Great Aunt Adelaide (Lansbury) still insists that Mr Brown remarry within a month to keep the family allowance.

Parallels to Lemony Snicket are somewhat obvious, what with a group of inventive kids at the mercy of the perilous adult world around them. But where that film only pretended to be dangerous, this film has a real sense that life for these children really does hang in the balance, requiring them to use their wits and understand the consequences of their actions. There are some lapses in the script, most notably a ludicrous dancing donkey and an oversweet fairy-tale finale, but when it keeps the magic subdued and character-based, it works perfectly.

The cast is a Harry Potter-like who's who, taking advantage of all scene stealing opportunities with glee. Staunton, Imrie (as Mr Brown's hideous fiancee), Jacobi and Barlow (as his employees) are wonderful. And Lansbury is clearly having a crotchety old blast in her first movie in more than 20 years. Thompson, Firth and Macdonald have less showy central roles, and hold it together nicely, while the child actors all create vivid characters.

Jones directs with a lively sense of magical realism, and he manages to assemble a brightly colourful production design that actually looks lived in for a change. He also remembers to understate the film's important messages, which makes it actually feel meaningful without being obvious about it. If he'd had that much restraint with the cute factor, this could've been a minor classic.

cert U themes, vulgarity, innuendo 17.Jul.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Nanny McPhee Anne Govier, Somerset: 4.5/5 "What a delightful film. It has been likened to Mary Poppins, but it is not really like that at all. The stars are all excellent in their roles, and it is so good to see big name stars appearing in a children's film. It just shows the extent of their talent. It was so good to see Angela Lansbury in a big film again as opposed to TV. What also came across too, was that they all seemed to enjoy making this film. Lovely." (27.Jul.05)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall