‘Nanny McPhee’ — ‘Mary Poppins’ Meets ‘Cinderella’

In the age of Nanny 911 and Super Nanny, it seems logical for a woman who can control impossible kids, to take center stage on the big screen. Maybe that should be control with a capital “C,” since there is no doubt where dominance resides.
I have heard Nanny McPhee described as “Mary Poppins” meets “Cinderella,” and wondered how that could be from the ad I caught before the screening. Now that I’ve seen it, I must agree it actually fits. I’ve also heard this movie described as “dark” (which I think is what the ads were going for) but I don’t think I would call it such. Over done in a couple of areas, maybe (mostly in the area of over done computer graphics), but not dark. No, it’s not as light as “Mary Poppins” – there is no spoon full of sugar to help their medicine go down (it moves on its own). However, these kids need more than the love of a sweet nanny and a bit of fun to correct their behavior.
Emma Thompson portrays the nanny of unsettling appearance and magical powers who enters the household of the widowed (and seemingly spineless) Mr. Brown (Colin Firth) and attempts to tame his seven horrendous children. The children, led by the oldest boy Simon (Thomas Sangster), have managed to drive away 17 nannies and are ready to make McPhee number 18. But as Nanny McPhee takes control, they find that their ugly behavior now has strong consequences.
This movie has the feel of a Disney flick… I would compare it to a “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” “Escape from Witch Mountain,” or the aforementioned “Mary Poppins.” Just like those classic films, you have to set aside the idea there is magic involved. There are also some ideas the younger kids will not catch (Mr. Brown falling on top of Mrs. Quickly, who thinks he’s displaying his passion for her), and some bathroom humor (the baby breaking wind). Over all, this is a fun little movie we will probably take our three kids to a matinee to see.
Thompson, whose first screenplay won the 1995 Oscar® for “Sense and Sensibility,” returns to screenwriting with “Nanny McPhee,” an adaptation of the “Nurse Matilda” books by Christianna Brand. Staring with Thompson and Firth (Mr. Brown), is Kelly Macdonald (Evangeline), Celia Imrie (Selma Quickly) and-in her first role for the big screen in two decades – Angela Lansbury (Great Aunt Adelaide).

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