Nanny McPhee


Reviewed by: Stephanie Wolfe Murray

Nanny McPhee
"The movie becomes ridiculous."

I had been sneezing and coughing all day and was really looking forward to this movie. I have always thought Emma Thompson to be one of the most accomplished actresses - sensitive, funny and curiously attractive. The thought of a script masterminded by her was blissful indeed, however well tried and tested the plot.

I'm sorry to have to report that I feel badly let down and slightly disillusioned by Ms Thompson. How could she have got it so wrong? Of course, the plot was never going to be original - seven badly behaved children of a widowed father; 17 nannies already sacked, or fled - but there is normally a way such a story can be brought to life. Dammit, they had the actors to breathe fire into the characters, didn't they?

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On seeing Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald), the pretty young scullery maid, within the first five minutes, I knew how it would end. I won't tell you, but you've probably guessed already. Sorry...

The recently widowed Mr Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) is impoverished, despite living in a higgledy piggledy Victorian house, with maid and cook (a slightly hysterical Imelda Staunton). In order to inherit money from his aunt he has to marry within a month.

Nanny McPhee is now in residence - well, as much as a magic person can be - and is having some success with the abominably behaved children, whose mission in life is to have no nanny and no wicked stepmother. Mr Brown must wed, or the children will be separated and a horrible fate may await them. His solution is to pick on the widow of his latest corpse - yes, he's an undertaker, a very unlikely one.

This is where the movie becomes ridiculous. Mrs Quickly (Celia Imrie), the widow, is actually disposing of her third husband. She is no more than a common harlot and looks the part. Evangeline, the lovely scullery maid, cannot be considered even in the farthest reaches of the pea-brained Mr Brown's head because she comes from the wrong stock. So what's going on with the embarrassingly vulgar widow? At this point, I give up and enjoy the scenery and the beautiful filming and the seven children, including baby, who was the star of the show - where did they find him?

There is an uncanny resemblance between Evangeline and the Portuguese maid in Love Actually, who played opposite Colin Firth. Simon, the eldest of Mr Brown's children, was the precocious impish son of Liam Neeson in the same film. Emma Thompson, as we know, was also in Love Actually. Perhaps she saw the very particular attraction of these characters and wanted to use them in something she was creating herself.

As for Colin Firth, he should watch out. He is on the cusp of becoming a big star, but another film like this and he's doomed to bit parts in TV sit coms. Granted, his character in Nanny McPhee is pathetic, although his hulky good looks and gentleness might have evoked a certain charm. They don't. There's no grit.

Sad, sad, sad...

Reviewed on: 28 Oct 2005
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A magic nanny sorts out the unruly children of an impoverished undertaker.
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Director: Kirk Jones

Writer: Emma Thompson, based on the novels by Christianna Brand

Starring: Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Celia Imrie, Derek Jacobi, Patrick Barlow, Imelda Staunton, Thomas Sangster

Year: 2005

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK


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