Film review: Nanny McPhee (2005), directed by Kirk Jones
Recently I watched Mary Poppins for the first time, and this is a film in the same sort of vein – only with a lot less singing. In fact, no singing at all, because Nanny McPhee isn’t a musical.
The Brown family consists of seven children (the oldest one of which is played by Thomas Sangster, the kid from Love Actually, or, if you prefer: the voice of Ferb in Phineas & Ferb) and their father Cedric (Colin Firth). Their mother has sadly passed away. In the household, there’s also a cook (Imelda Staunton) and Evangeline, the beautiful, caring scullery maid (Kelly Macdonald).
The children are unruly and keep doing pranks to make their nannies resign, and after the last one, the nanny agency say they’ve completely run out of nannies, there are none more to be had, and good day to you, sir. Suddenly, there’s a whisper of magic … Nanny McPhee is the one they need. There’s no need to advertise in the Times here, Nanny McPhee will find you, just like Mary Poppins, only with fewer umbrellas, less singing and fewer animated penguins.
Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) starts to work her magic, saying the children have five lessons to learn before she can leave, and she gets to it. Gradually, the children start behaving … and gradually, Nanny McPhee’s ugly warts also start disappearing …
Meanwhile, Aunt Adelaide (the fabulous Angela Lansbury) wants Cedric to re-marry, because all the children really need is a mother’s touch. She keeps them with an allowance and if he doesn’t marry within a month’s time, she’ll stop the payments and as Cedric is only a poor undertaker, the big house would have to be sold and the kids split up – the oldest ones would probably be forced into the workhouse, because this is set in an unspecified past.
Cue the awful Mrs Quickly (Celia Imrie), wicked stepmother extraordinaire. She’ll have to do, even though poor Cedric finds her repulsive, because keeping the family together is more important. The children, unaware of the financial jeopardy they’re in, just see a woman they really don’t want as a stepmother …
Emma Thompson is a fantastic actress, and she doesn’t shy away from making herself ugly (Sibylla Trelawney, I heart you!) and it’s fun to see her transformation from a warty to a beautiful nanny. Colin Firth … well, if there ever was a man who’s a pure delight to watch, it’s him. Not only because he’s dashingly handsome, but because whenever he portrays a man completely in love, I believe it – and swoon accordingly. Those looks he’s capable of!
To write this movie off as mere Firth eye-candy would be a disservice, because it’s a good film, I really enjoyed it. The kids were fab, even though the smallest one seemed surprisingly chatty for her age (even though I know someone else did her voice), Mrs Quickly hilariously gaudy, the two assistants at the undertaker’s were delightfully camp and the cook brilliant. The character of Evangeline is a treat, and sometimes you just wish you could bash Cedric over the head to make him wake up and smell the tea – the perfect woman is hiding in plain sight, for goodness sake!
To sum it up, Nanny McPhee is a burst of colours, imagination, giggles and (probably) morals. It’s entertaining, it’s fun, it’s fresh and lively. And I can’t wait to see the sequel when it might happen to grace our TV screens.
4 magical canes out of 5!