A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nanny McPhee is a 2005 in which a nanny with supernatural gifts arrives to teach politeness, honesty, and consideration to seven rambunctious children. For much of the movie, these children take pride in harassing and scaring nannies hired by their father, and almost every other adult for good measure. The kids are abusive in Home Alone-ish ways, pulling violent and sometimes disgusting pranks on adults who are supposed to look after them. They are fond of potty humor -- one boy introduces himself with the name "Fartworthy" then passes gas. Their efforts to thwart their father's marriage to a garish (and cleavage-revealing) widow include the use of reptiles, insects, and slimy substances. The instructive nanny looks like a traditional witch, arrives on a stormy night, and uses a magical cane. Some kids may be disturbed by the death of the children's mother (not shown). The father works in a mortuary, and we see shots of dead bodies.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Widowed father Mr. Brown (Colin Firth) is at his wits' end as NANNY MCPHEE begins, as his seven kids have just run off their 17th nanny. Just in time, warty, snaggle-toothed, bulbous-nosed Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives on a dark night and promises to set the household aright. She expects the children, especially chief schemer Simon (Thomas Sangster), to live up to her expectations: They can be kids -- rambunctious, energetic, and silly -- but they must also respect others, including adults. Or, at least, those adults who don't appear foolish outright, like garish local widow Selma Quickly (Celia Imrie). When Mr. Brown's Great Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury) insists that he marry by the end of the month or lose her monthly checks, the children plot to chase off the widow, not thinking through the long-term effects. Nanny McPhee lets them and their father learn lessons the hard way, allowing Mr. Brown to figure out how he feels about his pretty housemaid, Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald), on his own.
Is it any good?
Thompson has devised a wonderful script based on Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda books, wherein kids and nanny face off without condescending to one another. If some of the movie's effects are distractingly shoddy (see: the unconvincing dancing donkey), the kids (especially Sangster) are first-rate, and Thompson rather divine.
Nanny McPhee tells Mr. Brown that she can manage the kids while maintaining her independence and dignity: "When you need me, but do not want me, I will stay," she says, "When you want me but do not need me, I will go." Nanny's lessons -- instilled through judicious use of a magic cane and wry common sense -- include respect, loyalty, and generosity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this movie was based on a book series. What would be the challenges in turning a book series into a movie?
How does Nanny McPhee's specific sort of magic allow her subjects to figure out their own problems?
There are seven kids in this movie. How are they made to stand out from one another?
- In theaters: January 27, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: May 9, 2006
- Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Thomas Sangster
- Director: Kirk Jones
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild thematic elements, some rude humor and brief language
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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