Review of Nanny McPhee Returns

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Academy Award winner Emma Thompson reprises her role as the magical Nanny McPhee, who this time appears at the home of a harried young mother (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) struggling to run the family farm while her husband is away at war. Through the use of her magic, Nanny McPhee teaches the woman's misbehaved children and their two spoiled city cousins five valuable lessons, the most important of which is how to get along. Also appearing in the follow-up film to 2005's Nanny McPhee are actors and actresses Maggie Smith, Asa Butterfield, Ewan McGregor & Rhys Ifans.
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Movie Review: Nanny McPhee Returns

-- Rating: PG
Length: 109 minutes
Release Date: August 20, 2010
Directed by: Susanna White
Genre: Comedy, Family and Fantasy

"Nanny McPhee Returns" is the second movie about the unusual Nanny McPhee, a fictional character invented by Christianna Brand for her "Nurse Matilda" books. Starring Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ralph Fiennes, the movie continues the fabulous adventures of the outrageous Nanny McPhee. For fans of the first film ("Nanny McPhee") and the original book series, the movie is sure to be a delightful experience.

"Nanny McPhee Returns," which was released in the United Kingdom as "Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang," begins many years after the ending of "Nanny McPhee." The story opens on a young mother named Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal). With her husband gone off to war, Isabel finds it difficult to handle the stress of her job in the village shop while she manages her three lively children alone. To make matters worse, the children's two cousins have come to live with the family to escape the dangers of war. As the tension rises between the groups of children, Isabel is at the end of her rope. As in "Nanny McPhee," a mysterious voice arises from nowhere and advises the frazzled young mother to call on the services of the wacky governess.

Not long afterward, Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) appears at Isabel's home to take control of the situation. As the grotesquely ugly nanny teaches the children life lesson with her own unique brand of magic, Isabel's situation grows increasingly hopeless. Her scheming brother, who has gotten into serious debt, tries to con his sister out of her half of the family farm. A telegram of questionable origins arrives to let the family know that their beloved father has been killed in battle. With no way to know what is real, Isabel doesn't know which way to turn.

Fortunately, Nanny McPhee comes to the rescue. With her guidance-and a little help from her magic staff-the family learns how to solve their problems. As she teaches the children lessons about morality, bravery, faith, and love, the wart-covered nanny becomes more and more beautiful. At the end of the film, the formerly grotesque nanny walks away from the happy, reunited family as a lovely young woman.

"Nanny McPhee" stars Emma Thompson in an unexpected and uncharacteristic role. The actress, who is best known for playing leading characters in romance movies, embraces the role of the ugly, bizarre Nanny McPhee with obvious glee. Thompson spends most of the movie in heavy character makeup and alarming prosthetics, and she appears to relish the opportunity to show off her acting skills rather than her beauty. As the unusual governess, Thompson is nothing short of delightful. She throws herself wholly into the role, changing her voice and her physical bearing in the process. As a result, audiences have the opportunity to focus on the character rather than the movie star.

In addition to starring in the film, Thompson wrote the script. Her adaptation is filled with life and energy, retaining the unique aspects of the character while adding a fresh touch of creativity and humor.

The younger members of the cast shine in their roles, which require a solid grasp of comedic timing. In their roles as Nanny McPhee's young charges, actors Asa Butterfield, Lil Woods, Oscar Steer, Eros Vlahos, and Rosie Taylor-Ritson prove themselves to be masters of comedy. The children are the true stars of the film, and each one gives an excellent, memorable performance.

The adult cast of "Nanny McPhee Returns" is filled with recognizable faces. Director Susanna White admirably avoids turning her star actors into spectacles, preferring to work them into the story in an understated fashion. Maggie Gyllenhaal is remarkably convincing in her role as the frazzled, constantly agitated Isabel Greene, right down to the realistic English accent. She is believable as a young mother, particularly in the emotional scenes with her children. Other familiar faces pop up throughout the movie, including the magnificent Maggie Smith, who lights up the screen in her every scene. Rhys Ifans is appropriately oily as Maggie's brother, and Ewan McGregor makes an emotional cameo at the end of the film.

Overall, "Nanny McPhee Returns" is a delightful romp that will delight both children and adults. In an era when many films turn to high drama and expensive effects to win viewers, "Nanny McPhee Returns" uses timeless themes and genuine emotion. As a result, the film is a sweet, entertaining, and family-friendly movie for viewers of all ages.

Rating: 3 out of 5