Rewind Review: Nanny McPhee Returns

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Nanny McPhee Returns (2010)

Nanny McPhee returns is a fun film that avoids many of the trappings that typically hamper family-oriented entertainment either by curtailing these issues or outperforming the expectations of the given situations which we may find in many films.

One of the things that makes this film rather delightful and enjoyable is that situations which we are expecting or are set up are only as obstructive as necessary. A case in point would be Phil’s (Rhys Ifans) several attempts to get the farm, upon which our heroes live, sold to settle his debts. Each attempt is no longer and no more of an obstacle than necessary as villains can be both unfunny and overly imposing in family films. The first saving grace the family finds is the sale of prize pigs, he releases them they are recovered quickly enough and with the help of Nanny McPhee. This film also, however, manages to not de-fang its villain simply because he is thwarted quickly.

Both in Ifans’ performance and the tandem of Katy Brand and Sinead Matthews bring over-the-top quirkiness but also humor. There is a fine line between comedically and painfully over-the-top and they tread it smoothly with nary a misstep.

Emma Thompson is certainly to be applauded for the many good things she does with this story as a writer. There is a lovely dovetail into the first film at the very end but for all intents and purposes this is a film that is in no way dependent on its prior installment for you to enjoy it.

Also, there is minimal didacticism. Nanny McPhee is there to teach the children, cousins both from the country and the city who hadn’t met, five lessons. We are not told what each lesson is until it has been learned. While we are told many times that she will leave when she is wanted but no longer needed the clues as to how close she is to leaving are visual and unspoken.

Thompson is also quite funny in her deadpan reincarnation of this character. As a writer though she was again unafraid to let the children drive the story for the most part and has her fun with the supporting cast. The children are all a credit to the film and none, no matter how young, are so-cute-you-could-puke or in any other way annoying unless they are supposed to be and all of them do round out their characters at least to some extent.

Kudos are especially in order for the younger set: Asa Butterfield (who some may know from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and even more will when he is in Martin Scorcese’s Hugo Cabret), Lil Woods, Eros Vlahos and Rosie Taylor-Ritson.

The only weak link in the cast is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who for some unknown reason is cast as a British housewife. Needless to say her accent isn’t the greatest and she is somewhat off overall here. The credit to her and the film is that you do eventually get past it.

Regardless, Nanny McPhee Returns is a very funny, heartfelt and fun film which likely supersedes its predecessor.

8/10

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