Nanny McPhee Returns Reviewed
We’re not typically in the movie-reviewing business over here. We’ve done a couple before, but I think resources like Common Sense Media do a very thorough job analyzing movies through the appropriate filters looking at messages and exposure to images of violence, sex and consumerism. Usually, I feel like there’s not much value I can add beyond them and well every single other newspaper and magazine in print out there that publishes a review.
However, when you get the chance to meet and interview the screenwriter, and that screenwriter happens to be none other than Emma Thompson, well, you make an exception. Plus, this summer I have seen nearly every family and kids’ movie that’s been released and I wanted to get some cred with my seven-year-old who thought it was uber-cool that his mom got to see Nanny McPhee Returns before the rest of the country.
The bottom-line is that movie is good, not great. It’s been released in a season during which one of the most touching and memorable family movies ever was released– that would be Toy Story 3 of course– is still very fresh in my mind and in my heart . Interestingly screenwriter Emma Thompson’s goal was to develop a movie that could be a shared experience amongst children and their parents– much like what Pixar has done so well– and she has succeeded.
There’s something in Nanny McPhee Returns for the entire family. The children will adore the mischievous antics of the kids and the CGI acrobatics of the piglets (Emma Thompson’s favorite scene), while I predict the parents will adore Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance as a military wife (Mrs. Isabel Green) on the verge as she tries to keep it together for her three kids while her husband is away at war.
I was thoroughly impressed by how Emma Thompson nailed Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character. In some way we have all been Isabel Green, completely overwhelmed and in desperate need of a little bit of relief (that was just me three weeks ago). The child actors do a fantastic job and there’s a remarkable cameo performance by Ralph Fiennes.
In fact I think the weakest link in the entire movie is the the character of Nanny McPhee herself. I never saw the first and original movie, so I have no emotional attachment to her character and didn’t develop any the way I did for Isabel Green or the children who really are the stars in this movie.
During my interview with Emma Thompson she shared her wish is that kids will leave the cinema feeling inspired that they can solve their own problems. And in that the message of the movie is quite positive and strong… that kids are clever and that they can work it out. Kids know that they have limitations but they also need to learn their own capacities. I look forward to seeing whether my seven-year-old feels that way after we take him to see it.
My Rating: you can walk– no need to run– to the movie theater.
(Here’s the Common Sense Media review of Nanny McPhee Returns which analyzes scenes and age appropriateness)