Rated PG for rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements, 109 minutes
Charming, witty "Nanny McPhee" a decent children's flick
"Nanny McPhee” is a delightful, suitable children’s film starring Emma Thompson and a sequel to the 2005 hit “Nanny McPhee.” Overall, the first “Nanny McPhee” is a better film, but this will still please the many parents seeking a wholesome alternative to some of the questionable children's fare out today. Enjoyably offbeat and witty, the story occasionally falters under its own quirkiness, but it comes together nicely in the end with a predictable, emotional ending.
This time, Nanny McPhee returns to help another family in need. Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a harried mother of three during World War II in the countryside of Great Britain. She works at the senile Mrs. Docherty’s (Maggie Smith) market, and top of that, her boisterous children: Norman (Asa Butterfield), Megsie (Lil Woods) and Cincent (Oscar Steer) are soon joined by their cousins, Cyril (Eros Vlahos) and Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson), sent to temporarily live with them to escape wartime London. Isabel is also close to losing the family farm, with shady brother-in-law Phil (Rhys Ifans) constantly badgering her about selling the farm to cover his own debts. Nanny McPhee arrives just in time to get the children under control and help bring a family together during an important time.
Thompson’s colorful, funny and otherwise winning tale, “Nanny McPhee Returns” arrives in time in late summer to provide genuinely wholesome entertainment. Oscar-winner Thompson, wrote the screenplay and produces the engaging family film, a sequel to her hit 2005 “Nanny McPhee” and loosely based on the British children’s book series “Nurse Matilda” by the late Christianna Brand. The first film entry in this series is better, but this one has enough spry energy and humor to keep the young ones engaged and the adults happy for a short bit. The quirkiness (pigs fly, elephants get in the way and more) becomes a tad tiresome and the script meanders during the film’s second act, but it comes together for a three-hanky ending and a predictable climax that probably wouldn’t hold up in a lesser film.
The cast performs uniformly well. The children are all engaging in remarkably low-key turns, while Gyllenhaal does a decent English accent and a poignant turn as the loving but busy mum in need of a break. Thompson grounds the film well as the titular characters with her usual stoic charm. Watch for a colorful cast of supporting characters, most of whom you’ve seen with Thompson in the “Harry Potter” films: Oscar-winner Smith, Ifans (slimy but fun as usual) and in a very small but crucial part, Ralph Fiennes as a relative and high-ranking war office official.
The well-drawn sets, costumes and low-key special effects add to the charm of “Nanny McPhee Returns.” As a side note, the film is known as “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang” overseas and is already a modest hit in the U.K. Enjoyable, colorfully offbeat and smart, “Nanny McPhee Returns” is a worthy kids film entry and comes recommended as above-average, wholesome entertainment for the entire family.