Nanny McPhee (PG, 99mins) Directed by Kirk Jones ****
While the seven Brown children are very intelligent, they are also very, very, very mean.
Since the death of their mother, the septet has repelled no less than 17 nannies with their particular mark of mischief and chaos.
Their father, Cédric (Colin Firth), is at the end of his rope. Nannies of Distinction no longer has guardians willing to take care of her tribe, and to make matters worse her great aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury), a woman who can’t stand loose vowels, threatens to cut her allowance. if he does not find a mother for his children within the month.
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Enter the Nanny McPhee with hooked teeth, black eyebrows and warts (an almost unrecognizable Emma Thompson).
Apparently appearing out of nowhere, she immediately imposes her authority on the young offenders, warning them that she will be there watching their every move until they want her but no longer need her.
Based on the famous novel by former housekeeper Christianna Brand Nurse Mathilde books (first published almost 60 years ago), Nanny is a cheeky and charming film for the whole family.
Possessing the same magical feeling as the Harry Potter, Lemon Snicket and Narnia series, this 2005 tale stood out for its dazzling, airy art direction (involving vivid greens, purples, and reds) and wild, wacky Tim Burton-style costumes.
Director Kirk Jones (Waking up Ned Devine) keeps the action dense and fast-paced, while still being sure to establish strong characters and a great line of dark humor. It is greatly aided by the Thompson storyline which, while keeping the story simple enough for young children to follow, also ensures that there is enough of it to keep adults entertained.
Despite wearing a vest that even Mark Darcy would avoid, Colin Firth will delight his fans with his performance as an undertaker and father of seven. Display the comedic timing that has served him well both in the Bridget jones series and Love in fact, Firth is a delight even though he roams familiar ground here (think of his romantic banter in A girl with an earring and Pride and Prejudice).
The rest of the cast are also impressive, with Thompson’s dark Mary Poppins a delight, the luminous Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting) as convincing as ever, that of Angela Lansbury (The murder she wrote) Great aunt stealing scenes and Love in fact Thomas Sangster at the head of a troop of well-molded and credible children.
Offering some of the most entertaining 90 minutes you’ll spend this spring, Nanny McPhee, even 16 years later is proof that children’s entertainment doesn’t have to be an oxymoron, or something parents should avoid like the plague.
Nanny McPhee is now available to stream on Netflix and Neon.