Nanny McPhee Returns 

Spoonfuls of Sugar: Nanny McPhee Returns is a bright, silly kindergarten comedy with a lesson.

click to enlarge Nanny McFee Returns
  • Nanny McFee Returns
Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a frazzled mom, and her young children (Asa Butterfield, Lil Woods and Oscar Steer) are a handful. But there’s good reason for them all to be on edge: Dad is away fighting a war. (The whimsical 1940ish English-countryside setting suggests World War II, but this could easily be today.) Mom is fending off her brother-in-law (Rhys Ifans), who is pressuring her to sell the family farm. And now, city cousins (Eros Vlahos and Rosie Taylor-Ritson) are coming for a visit, and the place is an absolute mess.

And so it’s the earthy country kids versus the snooty city kids ... until magical Nanny McPhee turns up. Star Emma Thompson (who also wrote the script) is once again a stern, scary presence, not just physically—though her warts and snaggletooth contribute to her stolid implacability—but also as a personality. She does not brook any disobedience. And she’s got magic to back up her instructions—magic that will make spiteful or hateful little children sorry they have not been nicer.

Nanny McPhee Returns lacks the dark humor with adult appeal of the first film. But it’s hardly a chore to sit through as an adult, either. The bright silliness of this sequel—cute swimming piglets; a burping bird—may be kindergarten comedy, but it doesn’t overwhelm the more pertinent points about learning to be generous, cooperative, and kind the story gently sets out. TV director Susanna White, making her feature debut, works magic herself, transforming the lessons into something that feels almost accidental, happy side effects of the madcap adventures the children get themselves caught up in. And again unspoken is the lesson of Nanny McPhee herself: She gradually becomes more beautiful the better behaved the children become—her warts disappear, for instance—as if to suggest that manners and kindness make the world a nicer place to live in.

NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS

click to enlarge 3_stars.gif

Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor
Rated PG

Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of Film Reviews

More by MaryAnn Johanson

  • Bourne Again

    Jason Bourne is back, but it's not clear why.
    • Jul 27, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Real Disaster

    Deepwater Horizon feels trapped between tragic facts and genre conventions.
    • Sep 28, 2016
  • True West

    The Magnificent Seven returns to much-needed territory of Western heroism.
    • Sep 21, 2016
  • Scratch That

    Bridget Jones's Baby feels almost proudly stuck in another era.
    • Sep 14, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep-dive into the way movies portray one half of humanity.
    • May 11, 2016
  • Beasts of One Notion

    Zootopia depends entirely on its well-intentioned allegory about prejudice.
    • Mar 2, 2016

© 2016 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation