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Nanny McPhee

Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG
Directed by
: Kirk Jones
Starring: Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Kelly MacDonald, Imelda Staunton, Thomas Sangster
Released by: Universal Pictures

In Short: She's got warts, weird teeth, a huge nose—no pretty "Mary Poppins" herebut this "Nanny" is every bit as wonderful as her famous predecessor.

A Practically Perfect "Nanny"
Move Over, Mary Poppins, There's a New Nanny in Town
by Jenny Peters

There are a number of familiar elements to the wonderful new comedy "Nanny McPhee." The story of a British family that desperately needs a nanny has been famously told before, in the classic "Mary Poppins." This film is also about a nanny who uses magic, but the similarities end there, as Emma Thompson's "Nanny McPhee" is no pretty Poppins. Thompson, who also wrote the screenplay (an adaptation of the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand), is almost unrecognizable as the warty, long-toothed battle-ax of the title.

She arrives—mysteriously, of course—just as harried mortician/widower Cedric Brown (played perfectly by Colin Firth) has reached the end of his rope. His seven motherless and out-of-control children have successfully and triumphantly driven away their seventeenth nanny and all hell has broken loose inside their shabby Victorian-era home. But the timely arrival of Nanny McPhee and her magical walking stick changes all that, in a comic ride towards order and reason that both adults and children will surely enjoy.

Everything about this movie is amusing; from the wacky, brilliant and colorful set decorations and costumes to the quick and clever dialogue. Emma Thompson is wonderful as usual in the title role and the supporting cast is brilliant, from the inspired Angela Lansbury as the dowager aunt who controls the family's purse strings to Imelda Staunton's beleaguered cook. All seven of the children are excellent, and Kelly MacDonald gives a lovely performance as the scullery maid in love with the grieving master of the house. The jokes come fast and furious, keeping everyone, both old and young, laughing out loud throughout the course of the story.

Despite the fact that "Nanny McPhee" is a fairly predictable fairy tale at heart, the trip to the happy ending is one that leaves the audience smiling with satisfaction. Even the film's underlying messages aimed at children who misbehave are adeptly handled, and are never preachy. Like its famous—but really very different—predecessor, "Nanny McPhee" seems destined to become a classic that families return to again and again.

(Updated 01/21/08 NJ)

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