The eternal lesson-teacher comes when you don’t want her and leaves when you don’t want her to go and have grown to love her. Emma Thompson’s adaptation of the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand returns for another go round and is a charming, magical trip for the family… warts, unibrow, snaggle tooth and all.
World War II is raging and Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal, sporting a British accent) is holding her family farm together while her husband Rory (Ewan McGregor) is off fighting. Her children, Norman (Asa Butterfield), Megsie (Lil Woods), and Vincent (Oscar Steer), are driving her mad, the senile Mrs. Docherty (Maggie Smith) is making a mess of her store, and her unscrupulous brother-in-law Phil (Rhys Ifans) is trying to trick her into signing over the farm to him so he can sell it to cover some secret gambling debts.
She also has her relative Lord Gray’s (Ralph Fiennes), who is high up in the War Office, snooty children Cyril (Eros Vlahos) and Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson) coming to stay in the country with them to escape the possibility of London being bombed. To put it lightly, Isabel is stressed to the point of breaking.
One evening she keeps hearing that she needs Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson), who magically appears. The ugly crone has warts, a unibrow, a snaggle-tooth, but a calm demeanor and a magical cane.
She sets out to teach the children five lessons, but when Rory is missing in action, Phil pushes harder for the farm’s deed, and an unexploded bomb ends up in the wheat field it looks like Nanny may have her job cut out for her.
Nanny McPhee may not look it with her exaggerated features, but she is a delight. Emma Thompson scored with the first film, set in a vaguely Victorian setting and with assistance from Colin Firth, so it shouldn’t surprise when she has another go round.
Nanny McPhee could be dismissed as a carbon copy of Mary Poppins if it weren’t for the charm of Thompson, but you just know that the magical caretaker will make all endings happy. Even with that predictability, the film is a fun one for the family. My kids were enchanted by Nanny and the slapstick antics that ensued.
The win may go more towards the first film since this one still covers similar ground; I have to give kudos to Thompson and company for a fine family time. There’s also a sweet connection to the first film that I won’t spoil for you. If you liked that first film then you’ll enjoy this one too.
Nanny McPhee Returns is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer (2.40:1). Special features are presented in high definition. First off is a commentary from director Susanna White. Next is 15 minutes of deleted scenes, 15 minutes of making of featurettes, a 2 minute promotional “Look Inside,” and the disc is BD-Live enhanced with the ability to stream two kid movies.
Nanny McPhee Returns is good family fun thanks especially to the efforts of Thompson who outshines her warts and fright makeup. It’s a charming trip to merry olde England for the entire family and it was a pleasure to ride along with her.
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