Nanny McPhee ReturnsBy Karen Wilson
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements.
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Release Date: August 20, 2010
Running Time: 1 hour and 49 minutes
Plot Synopsis: During World War II in the countryside of England, the Green family is trying to do the best they can while their father is away fighting. Their mother, Isabel has her hands full with managing the family farm, running the shop for distracted Mrs. Docherty, keeping her three children Norman, Megsie and Vincent from bickering and preventing her brother-in-law Phil from selling their home for his gambling debts. When the two spoiled London cousins Cyril and Celia come to stay Isabel is at her breaking point, and a mysterious voice persuades her that the person she needs in Nanny McPhee. That night Nanny arrives on their doorstep and proceeds to use her five magic lessons to bring harmony to the Green household.
Sex/Nudity: While washing her wedding veil, Isabel flashes back to her wedding day with Mr. Green. When he finally comes home, they kiss passionately at their reunion.
Violence/Gore: All of the children bicker, and when the cousins arrive at the Green's farm the fighting really gets heated as the children chase around the muddy yard and torment each other. Nanny McPhee steps in with her magic and makes them fight themselves until they apologize. A telegram arrives for Isabel informing her that Mr. Green was killed in action, but it turns out to be a fabrication by the scheming Uncle Phil. Two ladies, Miss Topsy and Miss Turvey threaten Phil with harm if he doesn't come up with the money to repay his gambling debts. After they discover his plans, the family handcuffs Phil to the stove. An unexploded bomb lands in the barley field and Megsie, with some help from Nanny McPhee's blackbird Mr. Edelweiss, defuses it.
Profanity: There's a lot of talk about animal poop at the farm and Mr. Edelweiss has "collywoddles" aka gas from eating too much windowpane putty.
Which Kids Will Like It? Nanny McPhee's magical childcare skills and the animated animals she conjures up to help the Greens should tickle elementary age children. Children too much older than that will probably find the slapstick action and poop jokes too silly.
Will Parents Like It? Adults with fond memories of Mary Poppins should enjoy Nanny McPhee's magical disciplinary techniques and appreciate the very strong supporting cast of fine British character actors.
Kaboose Review: There are many times when a harried parent looks at his or her children and longs for a magical nanny to swoop in to make everyone behave. If she has a British accent like Mary Poppins or Jo from the TV show SuperNanny, all the better. Emma Thompson's Nanny McPhee is cut from a similar cloth, though she's remarkably less attractive than her fellow TV and movie sisters; she sports a snaggletooth, hairy black moles, frizzy hair and a unibrow. Nanny McPhee Returns is Thompson's second outing as the fearsome British nanny who teaches five lessons of civility to a well-deserving but chaotic family. As with the original, the supporting cast is packed with the world's finest thespians and the happy ending a satisfying one. If only Thompson hadn't packed her script with so many dumb poop jokes. Don't our children deserve more gentile humor in addition to lessons about sharing, getting along, being courageous and having faith?
Nanny McPhee Returns is set on the Green family farm in rural England during World War II, a picturesque, hectic place with a lot of mud in the yard. The three children Norman, Megsie, and Vincent bicker with each other a lot and the din gets even louder when their two cousins from London Cyril and Celia come to stay. The city cousins have all of the clichéd traits of spoiled brats and the three Green siblings all seem to be missing their father who's away at the war – and as a result they are acting out.
When Nanny McPhee turns up on their doorstep and begins laying down the law, at first the children are very resistant to her methods and Cyril even theorizes that she's able to control them through a silent gas released from her walking stick. But as in all nanny narratives, the firm hand turns the children around teaching them to value each other, their mother and especially Nanny McPhee.
Emma Thompson, with her kindly eyes and deep intelligence, seems born to play a firm but secretly gentle nanny. She's totally great in the role, as are Maggie Gyllenhaal as the children's stressed out mother, Rhys Ifans as the dastardly uncle and Maggie Smith, who plays their dotty neighbor. If only their thoughtful performances could've elevated the poop-joke laden script. It almost seems as though a list of visual gags sure to make elementary age viewers laugh was employed when Thompson constructed the plot. If only Thompson had used some of the nuanced restraint in her writing as she had in her Academy Award-winning screenplay for her take on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.
Directed by: Susanna White
Cast: Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Isabel Green), Asa Butterfield (Norman Green), Oscar Steer (Vincent Green), Lil Woods (Megsie Green), Eros Viahos (Cyril Gray), Rosie Tyler-Ritson (Celia Gray), Rhys Ifans (Phil Green), Maggie Smith (Mrs. Docherty), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Gray), Ewan McGregor (Mr. Green), Sinead Matthews (Miss Topsey), Katy Brand (Miss Turvey)
Karen Wilson is a freelance writer living in New York City.