In Wartime England young mother Mrs. Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is having a devil of a time dealing with her three kids and the absence of her husband, Mr. Green, who is on the front line. First off I’m guessing this war is WWII though there are a couple of thing in the new Nanny McPhee film ‘Nanny McPhee Returns’ which I’m sure did not exist during World War II, but then considering this is a movie where a pig will take flight, and nobody trips out over that, we can easily roll with whatever else is going on in this movie. Secondly Mr. Green is played via cameo by Ewan McGregor. I was thinking while watching this movie that his appearance was designed to be a surprise of some sorts but considering the IMDB has McGregor listed right below Ralph Fiennes’ cameo, no surprise there anymore.
Anyway, Mrs. Green runs a dookey farm, seriously, where her three children Norman (Asa Butterfield), Megsie (Lil Woods) and Vincent (Oscar Steer) work the farm, tickle pigs and build snowmen made out of dookey. Seriously. Soon these children will be visited their haughty cousins Cyril Gray (Eros Vlahos) and his sister Katie (Rosie Taylor-Ritson), because London is in danger of being bombed and the dookey farm is safe, which will cause all kinds of a ruckus mainly because the stuck up Gray children don’t cotton to staying at a dookey farm. And I’m supposed to be mad at them about that.
Well somebody needs to straighten these kids out, teach them how to be nice and how to achieve their maximum potential, and because a series of talking pots have told us this, this person would be Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson). If you’ve seen the first Nanny McPhee movie then you know that Nanny isn’t all that easy on the eyes, but if these children play nice and do what they are told Nanny’s warts and her myriad of facial imperfections tend to fade away.
And these kids are going to have to play nice and work together because there’s some serious rotten stuff going on. Primarily their scurrilous Uncle Phil (Rhys Ifans) is doing everything in his power to get Mrs. Green to sign over the deed to this dookey farm, to
pay for his gambling debts, which Mrs. Green refuses to do until her husband makes it back from this war. Just so you know Uncle Phil will do anything to get her to sign this deed. Anything. With terrible tragedy looming will Nanny McPhee be able to keep this family from crumbling at the seams? Of course she will you silly people out there. She’s Nanny McPhee.
Try as I might I really can’t think of anything too terribly negative to say about Nanny McPhee’s next adventure which was a fun, fast moving, very silly, very colorful and well acted children’s adventure film. A couple of things might’ve bugged me a little bit that really had nothing to do with the movie itself, but to be honest with you, Nanny McPhee has ONE TIME to open a door without physically touching it before I grab my kids and run out the house. Or find a nearby pyre, tie her to it and light a match. One time. And while I love pigs as much as the next guy, especially slow roasted over wood chips with a good barbecue sauce, but pigs climbing trees and taking flight is something I don’t think I’d find too amusing. Even at the age of twelve. Pigs are not supposed to fly which reeks of the handy work of, oh I don’t know, Satan?
Satan worship aside, this version of Nanny McPhee, a lot like its predecessor, is almost a throwback to the simple, straight forward engaging movies of my childhood, actually before my childhood since I wasn’t quite born yet when ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ were released. But just like I used to watch those movies on lazy Saturday afternoons, ‘Nanny McPhee Returns’ has that same kind of easy going magic to it which will lend itself to future generations enjoying it in the same way. In fact while watching the movie with Nanny stuck in traffic in her sidecar motorcycle I lean to my son and say ‘She’s about to go Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on them’. He didn’t know exactly what that meant but sure enough the motorbike took flight. That’s normal because that could really happen. Flying pigs not so much.
Director Susanna White working off of Ms. Thompson’s script largely keeps the character of Nanny McPhee in the background, only using her when she’s needed and giving the majority of the weight in carrying this movie to the child actors and Maggie Gyllenhaal who does a wonderful job as the loving and overworked Mrs. Green.
If there is anything wrong with this movie, which is debatable, but it is featherweight light, it’s really not trying to say much of anything outside the fact that in-laws with moussed up hair and tacky leisure suits tend to be bad people, and dookey farms can be fun. Otherwise this is a very simple, laid back, fun adventure that almost the whole family can enjoy without being offended by much of anything.