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Movie Review: Nanny McPhee Returns

August 20, 2010

Nanny McPhee Returns – A Universal Pictures’ Release

Release Date: August 20th

Rated G

Running time: 1o8 minutes

Susanna White (dir.)

Emma Thompson (screenplay)

Christianna Brand (characters)

James Newton Howard (music)

Maggie Gyllenhaal as Isabel Green

Oscar Steer as Vincent Green

Asa Butterfield as Norman Green

Lil Woods as Megsie Green

Eros Vlahos as Cyril Gray

Rosie Taylor-Ritson as Celia Gray

Rhys Ifans as Phil Green

Maggie Smith as Mrs. Docherty

Emma Thompson as Nanny McPhee

Photo credit: Universal Pictures

(L-R) Megsie (Lil Woods), Norman (Asa Butterfield), Vincent (Oscar Steer), Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson), Cyril (Eros Vlahos), and Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson) in Nanny McPhee Returns.

Our reviews below:


Nanny McPhee Returns Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

In 2005, Emma Thompson wrote, produced and starred in Nanny McPhee – the story of an unattractive magical nanny who teaches kids who “need her, but do not want her” life lessons through the use of tough love.  Today, she returns in the big screen follow up, you guessed it, Nanny McPhee Returns.

Maggie Gyllenhaall plays Isabel Green.  Her husband is fighting in the second world war, and she is stuck tending to their farm with the help of their three rambunctious kids.  When the cousins – a snobby brother and sister from the city – come to visit, only Nanny McPhee could make them get along.  But when the crooked Uncle Phil (Rhys Ifans) plots to steal their farm, the 5 kids must work together to save their property.

Like the best of British children’s entertainment there is a good dosing of darkness to go with the magic.  In a bizarre sub-plot gambling Uncle Phil is being threatened by two creepy ladies for either his sister-in-law’s farm or his kidney.  The walk through the woods before the arrival of Nanny McPhee is delightfully dark and sinister and there are themes of the ongoing war throughout.  These elements will only unsettle the youngest of children and add to the fun for older kids.

With strong leading work by Emma Thomson and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and good supporting work by Maggie Smith and Rhys Ifans, this is a an all-star British cast, even before the cameos by Ralph Fiennes and Ewan McGregor.  The CGI set-pieces, like an amusing synchro-swimming interlude with pigs, surprisingly work well here, adding to the delightful fun of the film.

Despite some of the grosser elements of the first part, this is a charming family film as well as a touching period piece, that is made even better by the excellent cast.  A delight for those of all ages, this is one of the best family films of the year.


Nanny McPhee Returns Review By Erin V.

***1/4 (out of 4)

In Nanny McPhee Returns – the sequel to the popular 2005 film – the title character comes to a little farm in the English countryside, to help a family there.  It’s the 1940’s and the father is off fighting in the war, leaving his wife and three children to hold down the fort.  When the kids’ two city cousins come to stay at the farm to avoid the war, none of the kids get along.  On top of this the farm is at risk of being sold, and Nanny McPhee has to quickly get them to realize that to save the farm, they’re going to have to work together.

This is a movie that is a mix of just plain silly jokes (more so at the beginning) and a charming mix of action and fun.  There are synchro pigs, and a baby elephant that the kids’ll love, and you just can’t help but find cute.  Besides the silliness, there is a bit of drama mixed in for a well-rounded story.  There are also nice messages throughout about keeping faith, working together, etc. that serve to move the story along rather than bog it down.

For a summer family movie, Nanny McPhee Returns is a fine choice, that will be enjoyed by most kids ages 6 & up, while being entertaining enough for the accompanying adults as well.


Nanny McPhee Returns Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Nanny McPhee Returns is a charming kids movie, starring Emma Thompson as a magical Mary Poppins type nanny.  The film is set in WWII England, on a rural farm, where Mom (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is struggling to care for her three kids while their father is fighting overseas.  Things get even movie hectic when their rich and snobbish city cousins come over to stay.  Mom now has to cope with five hyper kids.  To make matters worse, gambler Uncle Phil has bet away the family farm.  Time for Nanny McPhee to come to teach the kids five important lessons, save the farm, and maybe the family as well.

At the first 15 or so minutes of the film, I thought it was just another silly kids movie with animal poop jokes.  But once Nanny McPhee arrives, the movie becomes really sweet, with clever magical things such as synchro-swimming piglets.  I also liked Nanny McPhee’s bird, Mr. Edelweiss, who always eats window putty.  I really liked the scenery of the film, as well as the film’s depiction of the 1940’s.  The use of old songs, as well as a whimsical score by James Newton Howard, added to the film.

Nanny McPhee Returns is a sweet period piece that will please fans of classic films like Mary Poppins.  There is enough in this film that will entertain both young and old alike.  Go see this one.


Nanny McPhee Returns Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Nanny McPhee Returns is charming, oh so British, family-friendly fun.  Emma Thompson is back as the scary to look at, but wise, no nonsense, magical Nanny McPhee.  This time Nanny is back in 1940’s wartime England in a bucolic town outside of London.  Her task is to help harried Mum, Isabel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) look after her three energetic country kids, Vincent (Oscar Steer), Norman (Asa Butterfield), and Megsie (Lil Woods) and their visiting city cousins, the spoiled and uppity Cyril (Eros Vlahos) and Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson).  With the Dad off fighting in the war, Mum struggles alone to save the farm from the clutches of gambling Uncle Phil (Rhys Ifans) all while holding down a job at the local shop and managing five unruly children.  Thank goodness for Nanny McPhee.

The world that Nanny McPhee creates with the tap of her walking stick is one where pigs fly and do synchro swimming, children share beds with goats, cows and elephants and most importantly learn five important lessons that change the course of things.

There is so much that is sweet and charming in this movie that the childish animal poop jokes and silly fantasy sequences only add to the wonderful childlike tone and innocence that makes Nanny McPhee Returns so delightful.  Having the movie set in the 1940’s, with the wonderful music of that era keeps the mood light despite some of the darker subjects of war.

Emma Thompson has done a wonderful job with the writing and acting in this movie.  Perhaps Nanny McPhee will be back for a third visit in another place and time.  With excellent acting all around, the beautiful English countryside, lovely 1940’s music and a wonderfully silly story Nanny McPhee Returns will delight younger children and their parents.  This grown-up found it charming and delightful.


Nanny McPhee Returns Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

In Nanny McPhee Returns, Emma Thompson reprises her role as screenwriter and title character, this time with a 1940s English farm family whose father is away at war. The mother Isabel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has been struggling with three kids to which two spoiled rich cousins from the city have been added, a brother-in-law (Rhys Ifans) who will stop at nothing to persuade Isabel to sell the farm to pay off gambling debts, and managing the shop owned by the absent-minded Mrs. Docherty (Maggie Smith).  Nanny McPhee arrives to put things right, coming when she is needed but not wanted, and prepared to leave when she is still wanted but no longer needed. With the aid of her magic walking stick and putty-eating bird, five lessons will be taught, pigs will fly (and do a synchro swim routine), and other wonders happen whenever she taps her stick on the ground.  With each lesson, Nanny McPhee’s face will lose one of its ugly features, from moles to unibrow to big nose and finally to the protruding tooth.

This is a charming film, bringing fantasy to a touching wartime story that will appeal to all ages. However, from the dreary opening with everyone in wellies stepping through dung to the creepy pair of debt enforcers Misses Topsy & Turvy, we can see that it is somewhat darker than an American film might be.  The witty script is well delivered by a fine cast with five good child actors and cameos including Ralph Fiennes as the cold military uncle and Ewan McGregor as the father.  The English locations are beautifully filmed with great attention to period sets and costumes and a fine score by James Newton Howard. One of the best family films of the year, it deserved the enthusiastic response of the crowd we saw it with.


Consensus: With an excellent British cast, Nanny McPhee Returns is a charming family film as well as a sweet period piece.  A delight for those of all ages, this is one of the best family films of the year. ***1/4 (Out of 4)

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