A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this fantasy sequel is a great choice for families. The on-screen kids fight and misbehave a lot until Nanny McPhee disciplines them; ultimately, they learn important lessons about being helpful, selfless, and brave. Violence is limited to physical comedy gags like a bird that nearly explodes and two women who look harmless but are actually hit-women. One of the subplots involves a relative who's in the hole for so much money that he tries to bully his sister-in-law to sell her share of the farm.
What's the story?
Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is desperately trying to juggle the demands of her war-deployed husband's farm, her three rambunctious-but-sweet kids, and the arrival of her posh niece and nephew from London. After a particularly awful day when the snooty cousins arrive at the farm, Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) appears in all of her snaggle-toothed, hairy-mole-sporting glory to provide Isabel some much-needed relief and teach the kids how to cooperate rather than annoy each other. Adding some dramatic tension to the story is the fact that while Mr. Green (Ewan McGregor) is at war, his brother Phil (Rhys Ifans) has wracked up an insurmountable gambling debt to a mysterious female loan shark and wants Isabel to sign away her share of the farm.
Is it any good?
Because the story is so predictable, there's not much mystery as to how things will turn out, but kids won't care because they'll be too busy enjoying it. They'll be laughing at the flying and swimming piglets, the animal sleepover, and the kids hitting themselves comically until they stop fighting with each other. The magic of the NANNY McPHEE tale is that it's completely derivative (in an endearing way!) of childhood favorites like Mary Poppins and Babe, with a little bit of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang thrown in for extra flying-vehicle fun. Thompson, who also wrote and produced the movie, is obviously comfortable in the governess role and working with children, and her scenes with the kids are amusing. Gyllenhaal -- whose accent is surprisingly pleasant -- is no Colin Firth, but she's lovely and sweet, and you can't help but cheer for her and her friend, the forgetful Mrs. Docherty (Maggie Smith).
Other aspects of the movie, however, fall flat -- like the window putty-eating bird, the sweet-but-creepy hit-women, and the annoying Uncle Phil (Ifans), who keeps popping up again and again. But there are a couple of fantastic cameos from men who are no doubt Thompson's friends (McGregor and Ralph Fiennes). Their mere presence in the movie is a delight, especially the great Fiennes as a stiff War Office VIP who's the stand-offish father to the London cousins. Speaking of the cousins, they're appropriately naughty at first and then adorably friendly with each other. The end is particularly sentimental, because there's a tie-in to the first film, leaving open the possibility that Nanny McPhee will strike yet again.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Nanny McPhee means by her rule that when kids want her but don't need her, she must go. How does it affect the family she's with?
How do the cousins impact each other? At first they're at each other's throats, but eventually they grow to work together and even love each other. What changes their relationship?
How does Nanny McPhee's specific sort of magic allow her subjects to figure out their own problems?
- In theaters: August 20, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: December 14, 2010
- Cast: Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maggie Smith
- Director: Susanna White
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements
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