Blu-ray Movie Review
Directed by Kirk Jones, written by Emma Thompson, 91 minutes, rated PG.
By Christopher Smith
Upon first glance, you'd swear her parents had commingled with rats.
There is, after all, the rather distressing issue of her overlapping front snaggletooth, which pinches her chin and suggests that somebody here took deep strokes in the shallow end of the gene pool. And then there's her nose, which is a shock of twisted audacity, and her face, which has blossomed with warts.
Her ruddy complexion doesn't exactly help her homely plight, nor does the fact that her straw-like hair is in desperate need of a hot oil treatment and that her gigantic bottom, draped in yards of black fabric, is large enough on which to show a double feature--simultaneously and in widescreen.
The person in question is Nanny McPhee, the fearsome governess with the magical walking stick who is the title character of Kirk Jones' movie, a sequel to which will be released Aug. 20.
Emma Thompson, who based the script on the "Nurse Matilda" books, stars in the lead and she's the best part of the movie, absolutely in her element even though the movie itself isn't nearly as fetching or as funny as she is herself.
Set in the late 19th century, the film stars Colin Firth as mortician Cedric Brown, who is busy mourning the death of his wife while trying his best to provide for his seven unruly children. In no time, his little monsters have gone through 17 nannies before they come upon the formidable McPhee.
It's she who has the moxie to contain them. It's also she who appears, as if by some unknown calling, to teach them life lessons. When each lesson is learned, it gives McPhee herself something of a dramatic makeover. The warts disappear, the weight comes off, the hair, the nose, the teeth soften. Just why is never explained, so one has to come to the conclusion that the only reason she cleans up so well is so that we can see that Emma Thompson is still attractive. What a relief.
The crux of the movie comes down to this--in order to keep his children, Cedric must protect the monthly check provided by his wealthy Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury), a haughty, diehard Victorian who demands that he marry within a month or she'll cut him off completely, even if it means that his children will be divided into foster care.
Celia Imrie is Mrs. Quickly, the buxomly blonde with the harsh curls and the saucy red mouth who is a few decades past her prime but more than happy to marry Cedric. Kelly Macdonald is Evangeline, the beautiful scullery maid on which so many hopes are pinned. It's she, after all, who belongs with Cedric. But will they come together?
It doesn't exactly take a trick walking stick to figure that out. "Nanny McPhee," with its stale whiff of "Mary Poppins," is good-natured and genial, but to a fault. A real sense of danger could have helped the movie, a little drama beyond, say, the food fight that comes at the end. Its appeal likely will be for the youngest in the household. All others might wish that this nanny recalled a bit of Bette Davis' nanny in 1965's "The Nanny." Cross that film with "Mary Poppins," and then you would have had a movie on your hands.