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Emma Thompson once again pens and stars in the candy-coloured film
adaptation of the children's' books by Christianna Brand, following a
very strict and very ugly nanny who brings order and manners to a
household full of naughty children. This outing sees the titular
character nursing a farmhouse family whose father is off at war. The
mother, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal is obliged the sell the land to her
nasty brother (Rhys Ifans), a slimy character who will not rest till he
gets his way. Meanwhile the children's' vile London cousins come to
stay - two little brats who bawk at the state of the earthy farm abode.
Enter Nanny McPhee - an otherworldly being who appears when a family needs her most - squashed-nosed and snaggle-toothed, she calmly teaches the children five important lessons, though when things get out of hand she must employ the same supernatural technique of setting down her walking stick as she did in her previous adventure, and to spectacular effect. Nanny McPhee attempts to set the household to rights using these very methods, while the family struggle on with their visitors and hope against hope that their father will return.
Thanks to Emma Thompson's involvement, the film boasts a impressive array of British thespians including Maggie Smith, Ewan McGregor and Ralph Fiennes as a senior WW2 army officer. Though characterisation is hardly profound in a story such as this, each actor has their moment to shine - and Gyllenhaal, as the young mother, sports a flawless British accent and conveys her trademark maternal emotion when needs be. Production values are stellar, with all the period details on display. The film whisks along at a nice pace and never gets bogged down in one place - Thompson's adaptation is wrought with real warmth and wit, and once again she works wonders on-screen under layers of prosthetics, with every wry glance and raise of the eyebrow worthy of a laugh.
Setting the story of against the backdrop of World War II is very smart move - the 'big bang' in the title referring to the imminent threat of bombings during this time period. This gives the film a foundation of realism that the previous movie lacked....however, there's little room left for war time misery in the thematic threads of this story - you're more like to find a group of piglets doing synchronised swimming than any sign of a swastika.
Ultimately this is a family film, written for children - talking to them, not at them and carrying a very sensitive message at its heart. There are no double-entendres for the adults the snigger at, this is harmless entertainment at its best. It may not be a new classic but it's nice to see something like this making its way to our screens during the Easter break.
I don't know what the critics here were expecting, but from some of the
reviews I've read it seems that it wasn't a kids' film. In short, this
is a lovely, well-written, beautifully cast film that's executed with
great affection and makes maximum use of its chocolate-box locations.
Emma Thompson, aside from having no little talent for scriptwriting, is savvy enough to understand that the real stars of this film are the children and, in particular, Asa Butterfield and Eros Vlahos as Norman and Cyril respectively.
Rhys Ifans shows what an accomplished comic actor he is, even if his performance as Uncle Phil seems to draw much, both in characterisation and delivery, from that of Matt Dillon's portrayal of Healy in There's Something About Mary.
There's a lovely turn from Maggie Smith as Mrs Docherty and a reassuringly exuberant performance from Sam Kelly.
If there's a lull, it's when the action moves away from its countryside setting, although the scene played between Vlahos and Ralph Feinnes works nicely.
At a little under an hour and fifty minutes, it's quite long for children, yet my five- and eight-year-olds sat transfixed throughout. And in the end, that should be the yardstick by which any film aimed at younger cinema-goers should be measured.
As to Thompson herself, she is sublime when required, understated when the surrounding action demands. The reviewer who likened her performance to that of Roger Moore does not, I would suggest, appreciate either the characterisation of the Nanny McPhee role (much can be, and is, portrayed by simple facial expressions) or the very real acting ability of our erstwhile Bond. Comedy isn't all about snappy one-liners and the ability to convey comedy simply by saying nothing is an art in and of itself.
In the final analysis, this is a better film than its predecessor. It is more lovingly-crafted, less fantastic in the literal sense and more sharply observed. Watch it for what it is - a modern take on the old Mary Poppins story - and you won't be disappointed.
Not having seen Nanny McPhee 1, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I
have to say I was very pleasantly surprised.
The film was very easy to get into and the story and plot were well written and set.
The actors young and old performed brilliantly making the whole thing enchanting and a highly believable fantasy.
The special effects were very well done and the comedy in it was delightful. I took my children with me, aged 5, 12, 15 and 18 and they all loved it too, with lots of laugh out loud moments and lots of smiles throughout.
All in all a very good film and I recommend it highly.
If you're going to see it I suggest you take all the family. Its a definite must see for all ages and you'll not be disappointed.
If you've seen the first Nanny McPhee movie, then you know the premise
of the second: A harried single parent (this time a woman played by
Maggie Gyllenhaal) is overwhelmed by her three children plus two
cousins from London who come to stay at her small farm. World War II is
raging, her husband is somewhere in the battle theater, and her
brother-in-law (Rhys Ifans) wants nothing more than to sell the family
farm out from under her.
Just as poor Isabel Green wonders how she'll manage to make a payment on the tractor, get the crops in, keep her senile boss (Maggie Smith) from destroying the store, fend off Phil Green's efforts to get her to sign away her rights to the farm, and still take care of five children, Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives on the scene.
Nanny McPhee, of course, takes the children promptly in hand and wastes no time teaching them the lessons they need to learn. If Isabel and Phil learn something along the way, so much the better.
The script is fairly silly (penned by Emma Thompson, it's aimed at a very young audience), though it does have its occasional moments of cleverness and poignancy (and one especially silly moment that I must confess was hysterical no matter your age). There's also a heart-rending tie-in to the first film.
The acting is quite good though melodramatic (which, in fairness, is entirely appropriate here). As an aside, Maggie Gyllenhaal's English accent is pretty convincing! The children are just fine, but I must single out Eros Vlahos (who plays cousin Cyril) and Lil Woods (in the role of Megsie Green). Maggie Smith is, of course, her usual stellar self, and Emma Thompson manages to play a caricature of a character without overdoing it at all. A small part for Ralph Fiennes and a cameo from Ewan MacGregor cap off a very capable cast.
BOTTOM LINE: Nanny McPhee Returns was cute, but it wasn't all that good from my own perspective. I'll tell you, though, that every last four, five, and six year-old in the theatre giggled, gasped, laughed, and cooed right when they were supposed to. While I can't recommend this movie for your own grown-up (or even teen-agers') night out, your younger kids will just love it.
POLITICAL NOTES: Although Nanny McPhee Returns takes place during World War II and mentions of the war feature prominently, no details of the reasons for the fight or any political judgments whatsoever are made. Given the nature of that particular conflict, I'd say that there was some real skill exercised in writing about it!
FAMILY SUITABILITY: Nanny McPhee Returns is rated PG for "rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements." Frankly, children young enough to enjoy this movie take especial delight in rude humor like that exhibited here, and the mild thematic elements will likely be largely above their heads. Any real concerns should be easily addressed by Mom or Dad after the movie's over.
Overall, this sequel is almost over the top and as usual for sequel,
seemingly more dramatic, more spectacular, more impossible, and yet
Emma Thompson's script is in some ways even more compelling and more
emotively intimate and powerful. The early scenes of various
contraptions seems to take away the charm and seemingly gimmicky and
yet Emma's screenplay ties them together. The scene of London seems
also to be overly fantastical and yet Emma's writing never seems to
definitely cross the boundaries of acceptability and fantasy.
This sequel is even more touching and powerful in its presentation of children and their issues, especially the the spoil boy and his father in one of the most carefully refined and strongest scenes. Maggie Gyllenhaal does a nice job in a character that doesn't reflect her general starlet persona. While there are the usual stereotypical antics there seems to be an added flair to most. Overall while this movie is slightly a mixed bag, its presentation, its message, and the characters of the kids are both obnoxiously overly dramatic and yet again at the same time there's some underlying restraint and dignified at the same making this sequel an improvement on the first in many places. An intelligent and highly above average movie for children.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I imagined that it would be hard for Emma Thompson to retain the standards set by the first Nanny McPhee film when I heard that she was making a sequel. Baring in mind that I was hardly the imagined demographic for the first outing (I'm 24 years old and not by nature a sentimental person) I could not believe that a sequel could ever recapture the magic and sheer exuberance of the first. But it did and then some! After the first ten minutes of the film, I was so engaged in Emma's story telling and the characters that any fear vanished. Featuring some truly funny moments delivered by some very good young actors and once again brilliantly performed by Emma Thompson, the second Nanny McPhee film is for me, as much in league with modern children's classics as the much hyped Harry Potter. I found the storyline joyful and uplifting without being saccharine sweet and the film boasts some wonderful cameos. Katy Brand steals the show as the rough voiced yet somehow glamorous hit woman hot on the heels of Rhys Ifan's delightfully over the top villain. If I had to make any fault at all with this film it is at Maggie Gyllenhaal's unexpected casting and sometimes overly enthusiastic gushing, although generally Gyllenhaal is a decent actress she remains quite unlikeable for the first half of this film as the over-worked yet underwhelming mother character. A stunning turn from Dame Maggie Smith as she proves she still has the power to take even the smallest of roles and turn it into a wonderfully amusing, well performed piece.
Having not seen the previous Nanny McPhee movie, what I got was a pleasant surprise watching this funny and touching sequel starring and written by Emma Thompson. As the title character, I wasn't completely sure of what to think of her but she, like everyone else in the cast, eventually grew on me as the movie went on. And she's accompanied in the film by many compelling actors like Rhys Ifans, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, and Maggie Gyllenhaal who sounds fine sporting an English accent. There's also an appearance by Ewan McGregor in a role I don't want to reveal. Also fine were the children playing Ms. Gyllenhaal's offspring and the cousins who convincingly transition from spoiled rotten to more socially appealing during the picture. And the special effects involving the animals also rate highly with me. So on that note, Nanny McPhee Returns comes much recommended from me.
Emma Thompson takes us back to the colourful world of Nanny McPhee.
This time Nanny McPhee has a mission with a new family. I loved the
first movie. Not only was it a refreshing tribute to classics like Mary
Poppins, but it had heart and magic and its world looked surreal, a
splendid movie for the entire family.
Here too the world is just as colourful and surreal and looks like a fun place. Yes, even Isabel's muddy farm looks like an enjoyable place to live at. The creativity in writing and art direction amuses me, for example, watching those piglets lying in the scratch machine was cute and hilarious. The new animal characters, especially the baby elephant, are a delight. The lighting and slightly yellowish tint gives 'Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang' a very sunny look. The humour works very well as it had me laughing out loud on various occasions.
However, unlike in the first movie, the story here felt rushed and there were some inconsistencies. The bomb sequence, as entertaining as it was, wasn't necessary and it only distracted from the main story. The child actors here are competent but their counterparts in the first film performed better. While the special effects here are very good they didn't appear as authentic.
Emma Thompson reprises the title role and she does a fine job. She mostly takes the backseat while letting the other actors perform. Maggie Gyllenhaal shows a knack for comedy and her English accent sounds authentic. Maggie Smith is a riot. Rhys Ifans does well as the greedy uncle.
'Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang' may not measure up to 'Nanny McPhee' but it's still a lot of fun and a good watch for the family. I was smiling after it finished (watch it through the closing credits as there's a very cute surprise).
Emma Thompson did a great job as Nanny McPhee again. The make-up is excellent! Miss Thompson is an attractive lady and the make-up department totally changed her for this role..good job there. All the actors did a great job in this film. The young actors worked together and made the movie seem real. The photography was great and the scene with all the poop made me want to check my shoes. Funny...attention grabbing story about real people in tough times. I liked this movie! I hope there is a Mcphee 3, 4, 5 etc. We need more films with this quality and a message that means something. I guess the pigs were computer generated but they looked great...very realistic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nanny McPhee is a lovable movie for children. Most parents I know have
enjoyed the movie as much as the children. Usually the sequels aren't
as good but this is an exception. A remarkable scene is when Nanny
McPhee and the 2 boys go to the head war office in Londen. When they
arrive in Londen, you can see an old factory with four chimney's in the
background. As common in war time city's you could see anti aircraft
balloons in the sky and one was shaped like a pig. This scene resembles
a famous cover of a Pink Floyd album called 'Animals'. One of the
tracks on this album is 'Pigs on the wing'.
The producer must be a big Pink Floyd fan.
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