Back With All the Magic and Charm Intact
In 2005 Emma Thompson appeared on movie screens as the strange and wonderful Nanny McPhee. She wrote the screenplay herself, got herself cast in the lead role, and surrounded herself with a brilliant supporting cast. This all added up to movie magic for a large number of moviegoers and paved the way for a sequel. It has taken five years but Thompson has written another screenplay and is back in the lead role in Nanny McPhee Returns.
The first Nanny McPhee took place in an indeterminate location and time. In the sequel the time is definitely during World War II and the place is a farm somewhere miles outside of London. On this farm lives Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her three children Norman (Asa Butterfield), Megsie (Lil Woods) and Vincent (Oscar Steer). Her husband (Ewan McGregor) is away at war.
Mrs. Green works part time in a store owned by Mrs. Docherty (Maggie Smith). Between working at the store, mothering her three children, and taking care of the farm she has her hands full. Then her nephew Cyril (Eros Vlahos) and niece Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson) arrive from London to stay with the family. This poor woman needs the help of someone like Nanny McPhee, who miraculously appears at her door.
Once Nanny McPhee arrives the movie takes a whimsical bent. The magical scenes give new meaning to the term "when pigs fly." But then the movie turns serious and stays partially that way until the end.
Thompson is perfect as Nanny McPhee and the idea of having her get less gross looking as the children learn their lessons is a good one. It added charm to the first film and it adds charm here. Maggie Gyllenhaal is totally loveable as the set upon Mrs. Green. It is a totally different type of role from what she usually plays but it fits her like a glove.
The children are all solid actors with Butterfield being outstanding. If you wonder where you have seen him before, he was The Boy In the Striped Pajamas. Smith adds fun to the film as the doddering Mrs. Docherty, and Ralph Finnes has some good moments as Mrs. Green's stuffy brother in law. McGregor also has a few good moments in flashbacks as the long lost Mr. Green.
Rhys Ifans is almost in a different movie as Mrs. Green's scurrilous brother in law Phil. His scenes are so over the top that you can't take his villainy too seriously. In many ways he is almost identical to the character of "Rooster" in the musical Annie.
The movie is rated PG for mild profanity and some adult situations.
Nanny McPhee Returns is the type of movie that will not appeal to everyone. It is too sweet in some ways and too unrealistic in others. Still, for those in the mood for a fairy tale of sorts this is a great movie for family viewing. Emma Thompson has created a wonderful on screen character and here's hoping she brings back The Nanny for many more sequels.
I scored Nanny McPhee Returns a well tended to 7 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper