Nanny McPhee Returns

1 Sep

Title: Nanny McPhee Returns
Year: 2010
Director: Susanna White
Writer: Emma Thompson
Starring: Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Asa Butterfield, Ralph Fiennes, Rhys Ifans, Maggie Smith, Ewan McGregor
MPAA Rating: PG, rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements
Runtime: 109 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%

The original title of this film is Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, but I saw it under the American-given title of Nanny McPhee Returns so I’ll call it that here. It is, obviously, the sequel to the 2005 family film Nanny McPhee, a film I thought was seriously charming, and this time around I’ll go ahead and say that the sequel is actually a bit better than the original, which is saying quite a bit.

This isn’t the best film you will see all year, but it is a pretty damn good option for a flick to check out with the whole family, the script, again written by star and producer Emma Thompson, is full of really neat moments, and the casting is excellent. Emma Thompson is one actress that I find amazing in everything she does, not only is she super talented on-screen (she won an Oscar for Howards End in 1993), but she’s also pretty talented behind the screens (she won another Oscar for adapting Sense and Sensibility a few years later), and she just so happens to be one charming lady, which you can attest to by seeing any interview she does, so yes, if she’s attached to something you can bet your ass it’s gonna be worth your time.

I like how Ms. Thompson plays Nanny McPhee, I liked it back when I first saw her with the big nose and tooth and I like her now, when I know what to expect from the character. And all that liking comes from the fact that it looks as though Ms. Thompson herself loves playing the character, the authoritative Nanny that arrives unexpectedly into households, cleans up a mess of one sort of another and then magically leaves.

The first Nanny McPhee was directed by Kirk Jones, a guy who since has only directed one other film, which would be Everybody’s Fine, a film that was quite alright though a bit too melodramatic for my taste. Nanny McPhee Returns hands over the reigns to Susanna White, who has had quite a bit of experience directing to TV, most notably on the mini-series version of Jane Eyre and on Generation Kill, both of which earned her Emmy nominations for directing, but with Nanny McPhee Returns she makes her feature film debut, and it’s a very satisfying one, because it still has the same ingredients that made the first one a success, and it all starts with Ms. Thompson’s script.

Ms. Thompson, as I said, earned an Oscar for adapting a classic Jane Austen novel, and also did some uncredited dialogue work on the adaptation of another adaptation of the same author (Pride & Prejudice), and what I mean by this is that her writing skills know how to translate emotion really well, especially through sincerely well-written dialogue, look at those two movies and they both have beautiful language, first drawn out by Jane Austen, obviously, but translated so well emotionally by Ms. Thompson. And a language as well-crafted as that is something that kid-oriented family films usually lack, and this film would have still made good by the kids without it, it still has the really fun special effects for that, but the dialogue by Ms. Thompson make this a much deeper film that resonates with the more mature side of the audience.

Not to mention that this Nanny McPhee stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as a mother of three who has to handle her kids as well as the farm she runs while her husband, played by Ewan McGregor, is off fighting in the war. Ms. Gyllenhaal is amazing, an actress I seriously like and think is superbly talented, and sure, her turn in this film is pretty great but, unlike the first installment of this series, the adults vs. kids scenario isn’t the case so she’s not as front-and-center as she would have been in that initial entry in the series, in this one, rather, the kids are pitted against another set of kids.

That other set of kids being the group of cousins that come from London, pissed off about being sent from their comfortable city lives to the farm. And then of course comes Ms. Thompson’s Nanny McPhee, who’ll help Ms. Gyllenhaal’s Isabel turn these kids into good ones, and it’s all quite fun to watch, the special effects especially are quite charming, and everything is all very family-friendly. The kids will rejoice at the various jokes around the farm, the grown-up portion of the audience will like Ms. Thompson as the titular character and will love Ms. Gyllenhaal, who looks as stunning as ever and dons a British accent quite convincingly.

The one thing I didn’t really love about Nanny McPhee Returns was that it changed tones too much, I mean most of the time it’s just plain charming, but then it’s just silly at times, and at time’s it’s even dark, what with the war as background and all, but when it plays to its strengths, which is just Emma Thompson having a lot of fun, it’s a true success, and as far as family movies go, this one really did it for me.

Grade: B

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