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Nanny McPhee

Every Little Thing She Does

Ill-behaved children, beware! There is a new sheriff in town. The mysterious Nanny McPhee has a gift for taming the wildest and most unruly of children. This is most fortunate for the beleaguered Cedric Brown whose gang of young miscreants has driven away a staggering 17 nannies!

Having exhausted the entire town's supply of available nannies, Nanny McPhee arrives on Cedric's doorstep deus ex machina style. While put off by McPhee's warts, snaggletooth, and bulbous nose, Cedric doesn't exactly have a plethora of options. In short order, McPhee becomes a fixture in the Brown household.

Much to the chagrin of Cedric's children, McPhee is immune to their normal tactics for tormenting nannies and quickly lays down the law with her magical stick. Thus, begins a charming story of love and reconciliation in Nanny McPhee.

Playing the aforementioned McPhee in heavy makeup is Emma Thompson. The makeup job on Emma is so convincing that it took about half the runtime of the film to finally recognize her under the warts and bloated nose. Thompson brings a wry sense of humor to her turn as McPhee. It's a bit of a departure from the period pieces Thompson seems to prefer, but it's a refreshing departure.

Colin Firth does a serviceable job as the troubled widower, Cedric Brown. Firth seems sufficiently harried and bent out of shape over his children's poor behavior, but seems ill equipped to deal with his children in any substantive way. Some of this is attributed to his grief over the death of his wife, but it comes across as more than a bit self-absorbed at times.

Naturally, it is up to Nanny McPhee to not only reform Cedric's mischievous children, but bring this somewhat fractured family back together. Based on the "Nurse Matilda" book series, Nanny McPhee is a story that easily could have careened into sappy, saccharine, and emotionally overwrought territory.

Fortunately, star and screenwriter Emma Thompson and able handed director Kirk Jones manage to keep the film on track marrying a dark, wry sense of humor with family oriented subject matter. It's a formula that works fairly well as kids will no doubt enjoy the slapstick antics of the kids while parents will appreciate some of the more mature humor that the kids won't get.

Nanny McPhee is a refreshing treat during a time of year that is typically dominated by heavy Oscar contenders or middling genre pics (Big Momma's House 2, anyone?) that no one has the confidence to release during the cutthroat summer season. Virtually everything Nanny McPhee does is magic.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars