Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley
Nanny McPhee – 4 Stars (Excellent
Bless yourself by renting “Nanny McPhee” and sharing it with your children at home, not in the movie theater. Do this because this film is all about home and your children might relate better in the comfort of their own home. Nanny McPhee is an excellent film with a wonderful message for all children to recognize and understand.
In an entertainment world full of trashy and violent video games with movies to match that dwell on murder, rape, sex, drugs, alcohol, filthy language, broken relationships and crummy morals, Nanny McPhee is everything good about movies for children. You and your children can watch this film without fear of unpleasant and unwanted garbage rooted in sensationalism for ratings and greed.
When finished watching, you can thank the uncompromising excellence of British actress Emma Thompson and British director Kirk Jones for the incredible excellence of Nanny McPhee. I watched this film and went to bed wondering if it was as good as I thought it was. I watched it again the next night and did not wonder again.
Thompson-who has won 2 Academy Awards for Best Actress (Howards End in 1992) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Sense and Sensibility in 1995), and 2 BAFTAs for Best Actress (Howards End and Sense and Sensibility)-wrote the screenplay for Nanny McPhee. BAFTA is the equivalent of the American Oscars, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Kirk Jones (not to be confused with the American rapper and actor Kirk Jones) is a gifted writer and director with great work that has not been properly recognized. Combine Emma Thompson with Kirk Jones and you have the formula for a winning production.
In 1998 Jones wrote and directed his first feature film “Waking Ned Devine” with a budget of $3 million that grossed $90 million worldwide. I believe Jones should have two Oscars and probably would if it were not for the fact that Hollywood’s voters are too busy pawing each other and posing for pictures to correct their near-sightedness.
Until a comedy is made that is better than Waking Ned Devine it shall remain my favorite comedy of all time.
If it sounds like I am gushing over Nanny McPhee, I am. There are so many good lines in this script I would not dare to recount them here. Watch the movie and enjoy the experience of listening carefully.
Nanny McPhee the movie is named for a governess (Emma Thompson) who uses magic to rein in the behavior of 7 out-of-control children of recently widowed Mr. Brown (Colin Firth).
Mr. Brown must answer to his Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury) who has been financing his family’s livelihood and now commands him to marry within the month or she will cut off his sustenance. His bratty children have a genuine fear of losing their father should he marry the widowed Mrs. Quickly (Celia Imrie).
The children, who collectively have driven away 17 consecutive nannies, are led by their older brother Simon (Thomas Sangster). All 6 of the younger children-Tora (Eliza Bennett), Lily (Jennifer Rae Daykin), Eric (Raphael Coleman), Sebastian (Samuel Honywood), Christianna (Holly Gibbs) and Baby Agatha (Hebe Barnes and Zinnia Barnes)-face the same fate as Simon.
Enter Nanny McPhee with her magic and old-fashioned discipline that makes the children aware of their behavior, and soon the children become models of what to do and when to do it.
Beyond the obvious endearments, what makes this film excellent is two huge but subtle elements.
One is the guts of the writer and actress Emma Thompson who creates a character for herself that is repugnant upon first sight. She has two huge warts on her face and an enormous tooth cascading down over her lower lip. Nanny McPhee will repel you upon first look. Thompson’s acting skills allow her to be perfectly relaxed and confident despite her appearance. Her make-up was done by designer Peter King.
The other element is the discovery by the children that when they learn a major lesson, one of the warts disappears, and eventually through model behavior by the children, Nanny McPhee becomes better and better looking.
In many such films as this-the “Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews comes to mind-the nanny only influences the children. In Nanny McPhee, the children also become powerful agents for positive change, empowering them in the process. Never underestimate the insight and brilliance of Emma Thompson, the writer or actress.
A tip of the hat to Angela Lansbury in her role as well. Lansbury is a living legend who never goes out of character as Aunt Adelaide. From Broadway to Hollywood to television and back, Angela Lansbury is a British national treasure.
Nanny McPhee is based on the “Nurse Matilda” books by Christianna Brand. Emma Thompson said it took her 9 years to write the screenplay; it took her 5 years to write her Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility.
Trust me when I say that Nanny McPhee was worth the wait and then some. Watch Nanny McPhee and learn with your children some important lessons in human nature.