Television director Susanna White takes her first crack at the big screen with Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang,the sequel to the 2005 film Nanny McPhee. Said Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives in the middle of WWII to lend a much needed hand to Mrs Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in raising her children and their cousins whilst Mr. Green (Ewan McGregor) is off killing Nazis. Mind you he claims he is fighting in the war, as far as I can tell he is actually at film sets acting in I Love You Phillip Morris and The Ghost. But I digress.
Nanny McPhee arrives without warning to bring order to households where the children run wild, using the art of magic. She arrives when the kids don’t want her, but need her; and leaves when she is wanted, but not needed. And this household certainly needs her! Mrs Green is just too nice to discipline the children, and doesn’t know any magic tricks to win their awe and respect. The film starts out by demonstrating this, as well as escalating her troubles by bringing in the two snobby cousins from the city to Green Farm. City kids and country kids do not get along: ‘nuff said.
So just a rip-off of Mary Poppins? Well McPhee does start out ugly and with each lesson she teaches the children she becomes less repulsive until she finishes as a rather handsome young woman. There is no apparent reason for this, although the only explanation for this I can think of is a little twisted. But think about it: small boys don’t want a nanny, but over the years they bond with her as she gives them the discipline they need. By the end of the relationship the boy is a well raised young man who is too old for a nanny, but wants a wife instead. So like Mary Poppins but with a creepy undertone then? Pretty much, though of course any kids watching will not pick up on it.
As a kid’s film we need to know whether: a) the film entertains children, b) the film teaches them any useful morals/educates them, and c) the film doesn’t outrage/bore parents too much. The answer to all of these is that the picture manages to do its job adequately; it’s not a classic but if the kids want to see it then I can’t see any reason to deny them the chance. The story and dialogue should keep the parents awake and hopefully even entertained – simple fantasy rather than baby talk. I enjoyed it at least.
The film is so generic and formulaic that it is hard to find flaws in it, other than the fact that it is a bit formulaic and generic. Fortunately there is just about enough movie magic in it to make up for it. The Mary Poppins issue makes the whole experience to be little more than treading over the same ground, yet as that was such a classic film it seems a fair target for inspiration/plagiarism. Besides which this is not a musical. The Universe in which the film resides is fleshed out very well and the direction of the film adds charm. From the youngest child upwards the acting is of a good standard. Overall a high three star standard film, though youngsters may be enchanted enough to grant a four or even star rating, and they are better qualified to judge the film than me.