Nanny McPhee Returns | Film Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Nanny McPhee Returns 

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

Pin It
Favorite
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

3_stars.gif

Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor
Rated PG

Pin It
Favorite

More by MaryAnn Johanson

  • Blunderworld Figures

    Guy Ritchie's The Gentlemen mixes a slick crime caper with a Brexit metaphor.
    • Jan 22, 2020
  • What Women Want

    Little Women and Hustlers tell the same story that is too rarely told.
    • Jan 15, 2020
  • Dis-Topian Fiction

    Visions from a not-so-improbable future where Disney owns everything. No, seriously. Everything.
    • Sep 4, 2019
  • More »

Latest in Film Reviews

  • What's In a Name?

    Seberg is at its best when it's not just about the famous actress in its title.
    • Feb 26, 2020
  • Power Failure

    The Assistant brilliantly captures the dynamics that protect abusers.
    • Feb 19, 2020
  • Snow Job

    Downhill remakes a dark character study as broad comedy.
    • Feb 12, 2020
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Small Gestures

    Two nuanced performances elevate familiar elements in Puzzle.
    • Aug 23, 2018
  • The Not-So-Broken Road to Acting

    Utah native Lindsay Pulsipher on the journey from Touched by an Angel to playing a war widow.
    • Sep 5, 2018

© 2020 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation