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Nanny McPhee
2006 - G - 98 Mins.
Director: Kirk Jones
Producer: Debra Hayward
Written By: Emma Thomspon,
Starring: Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Kelly Mcdonald, Imelda Staunton
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site:
Like a cross between ‘Mary Poppins,’ ‘Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang,’ and ‘Sound of Music,’ ‘Nanny McPhee’ has all the elements of classic G-rated fare. A big English family of naughty moppets, a distressed and remote father, and a dire need of a wonderful, magical nanny to bring order and life lessons to the kids.

However, ‘Nanny McPhee’ – based on an screenplay by Emma Thompson, who won an Oscar for her screenplay adaptation for ‘Sense and Sensibility’ – is disappointingly slow-paced. We’re barely a few minutes into the movie when I suddenly realized one major difference between this movie and all those family classics – music! The other films were musicals so potentially dull spots were paved over with catchy musical numbers and elaborate productions. In ‘McPhee,’ the Nanny’s magical twitch is so subtle; it’s more a depressed sigh as she nods her head to one side.

There’s a gothic element of Tim Burton in this tale. Colin Firth stars as glum local undertaker and widower, Mr. Brown, the father of a bunch of unruly kids who have happily frightened off 17 other nannies. Since no other nanny agency will touch them, help comes in a gust of wind and a knock at the door. Nanny McPhee, Emma Thompson in majorly ugly make-up, promises to teach the kids 5 life lessons. She warns them, “When you need me, but do not want me, then I will stay. When you want me, but do not need me, then I have to go.” The kids, horrified at their moley, bucktoothed nanny, have every intention of driving her out, but predictably become fond of her gentle but stern ways.

Taking place at the end of the 19th century, Mr. Brown financially depends on his rich, cruel Aunt (played by Angela Lansbury). Tired of supporting his brood, she warns him to remarry before the end of the month or else she’ll cut him off from her money.

Even the strong cast can’t save this dull flick. Scottish actress, Kelly McDonald (‘Trainspotting’) is the pretty scullery maid, Evangeline. And the very colorful Imelda Staunton (‘Vera Drake’) is the ex-military cook, Mrs. Blatherwick.

Emma Thompson and ‘Cheers’ fans may remember that she actually played a nanny and Frasier’s first wife, the colorful children’s TV star, Nanny Gee. Well, Nanny McPhee is more like a witch than a children’s TV show host. Her drabness adds to the Burtonesque feel of the movie. Low energy direction by Kirk Jones (who did the sweet but forgettable Irish film, ‘Looking for Ned Devine’) doesn’t help.

In the U.S., there’s a reality show called ‘Nanny 911’ where an English nanny brings in discipline to badly behaved children. If only ‘Nanny McPhee’ was as entertaining! Instead, we have a joyless, preachy movie where life lessons are counted off, and the magic is practically invisible.

Movie Guru Rating
Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable. Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable.
  1.5 out of 5 stars

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