Thursday, 25 March 2010


Universal Pictures
Now Showing

There is a moment towards the end of Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang when a character demands “Quiet, please!” and not a moment too soon. Or rather, too little too late, for by this time, unless you're one of the under-10 demographic the film is aimed at, or someone used to hosting children's birthday parties, the raucous assault of sound emanating from the screen will either have driven you from the cinema or into the foetal position.

Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal, she who called for silence) has been left to run her English countryside farm with the help of her three children, while her husband (a token Ewan McGregor) is off fighting, presumably in WWII (the film is not time specific). She's already struggling, with parenting and finances, when her well-heeled nephew and niece arrive from London to escape the bombing.

The country kids take an instant dislike to their pampered cousins with all hell breaking loose. That's when Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives. Nanny McPhee (small 'c', big 'P') is like Mary Poppins' ugly step sister, her witch-like black wardrobe complemented by a couple of hairy moles, a bulbous nose and a rogue buck tooth. She weaves her own brand of magic in having the children learn to live and work together, with each lesson achieved – there are five in total – reducing the au pair's facial, uh-hum, imperfections one by one.

All of this will be familiar to those who saw the first Nanny McPhee. I didn't and, no, it's not going on the list. Both films were penned by Emma Thompson and in this second installment she seems intent on giving herself as little to do as possible; Nanny McPhee seems only to intervene in the Green family troubles when it is absolutely necessary. She's the child minding equivalent of the UN; at one point casually looking on while the children disarm a German bomb in a wheat field.

Still, there's enough mayhem and cute little piggies in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang to keep youngsters entertained. But there's not nearly enough magic to cast a spell on adults, especially those without children – or earplugs.

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