A to Z Challenge – N is for Nanny McPhee

Nanny McPhee posterToo many kids + a single parent (usually a dad) – any recognizable sort of discipline = the kind of chaos Hollywood loves to showcase.

Personally, I don’t get it. Is it a subtle return to 1950s values, where Mommy kept the house and raised the kids and Daddy was the breadwinner? Thus, when Mommy is removed from the picture, Daddy truly has no idea what to do or how to handle his little offspring?

A bit deep, yes, but a question one can divine from Nanny McPhee, which is proof that all unruly children really need is a woman’s touch…preferably when she’s holding a magical cane that will make them do exactly as she wants. (It’s as much a fantasy for parents as for children!)

Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) is a widower with quite a number of problems…seven, to be exact: his seven children who are completely undisciplined and who get great joy out of how quickly they’re able to go through their nannies. That is, until the fiercely ugly Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) shows up on the Brown’s doorstep. The kids think getting rid of her will be a piece of cake, but Nanny McPhee has magic on her side, and she doesn’t back down from a fight.

Sadly, it turns out that Brown’s unholy brood is only a part of his problems: Great Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury) has threatened to cut off her monthly allowance — the only way Cedric can keep his children in the same house — if he doesn’t get married by the end of the month. The kids will need one another — and Nanny McPhee — if they’re to stay together.

We’ve seen many movies where the kids are holy terrors, yes, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this bunch, but when Nanny #17 bursts into Mr. Brown’s office to exclaim in horror, “They’re eating the baby!” you know we’re dealing with some clever kids with a sick sense of humor. Really, you can’t wait to see what prank they’ll pull next.

Our dear titular nanny is like Mary Poppins without the singing or the sweetness. Disobey her, and you’re bestowed with a little grin that has the same effect as a rattlesnake’s rattle. A master of reverse psychology, Nanny McPhee gives the kids exactly what they want. They want to stay in bed all day, they get to stay in bed all day…but they have to contend with the nanny and her measles medicine.

In fact, if the movie had a weak point, it would be that it didn’t show enough of Nanny McPhee versus the kids. I had kind of hoped to see more of a power struggle between her and Simon, the oldest child and ringleader. However, that doesn’t detract from enjoyment of the film.

It’s short (about an hour and a half long) and sweet, in a twisted fairy tale sort of way. There’s a vile stepmother-to-be, who loves colors so bright they could scorch your corneas, a meek scullery maid who longs for true love, and an ex-military cook who now runs the kitchen at the Browns’ home. When the wedding climax of the movie involves a food fight, you know you’ve found a film worth watching.

The audience I was watching it with gave Nanny McPhee a hearty round of applause when the credits started rolling. It’s definitely a family-friendly flick, but a charming one that’s worth checking out.

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies. This is one of the reviews I originally wrote during that time.

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4 comments on “A to Z Challenge – N is for Nanny McPhee

  1. Joe Owens says:

    WHen i saw the first trailer for Nanny McPhee i will admit I was repulsed a bit. Emma Thompson is an attractive woman and the transformation was striking. I have not seen this film, but my children have.

  2. I really enjoyed this movie! I didn’t think I would, but I love the transformation of Emma Thompson and the main line – If you need me, but don’t want me I will stay. If you want me, but don’t need me, I will go. Not properly quoted, but I love the idea! 🙂

  3. Claire says:

    I really enjoyed this one too, but then I’m a big Emma Thompson fan. 🙂

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