Dir: Kirk Jones. UK 2005. 98mins
Emma Thompson makes her long-awaited return toactress-screenwriter mode (her first since Sense& Sensibility, for which she won several major awards) with
Also appearing in this taleof seven motherless children, their hapless father (Firth) and theirastonishingly ugly nanny (Thompson) is Angela Lansbury,returning to the big screen after a 20-year absence.
Her presence among the cast onlyadds to the overall feeling that Thompson has put
It appears amid a crop ofeagerly awaited features for the younger end of the family market, rolling outin territories like the UK just after Wallace& Gromit: The Curse Of TheWere-Rabbit and ahead of the new HarryPotter and the first in the ChroniclesOf Narnia series.
The core audience in the UK,where it enjoys a release on Oct 21 just ahead of the half-term holiday, shouldbe children in the five to 12-year-old bracket (in urban areas the upper end ofthe age scale may be lower).
The story, which plays tothe nostalgia gallery, opens in a rambling house in the English countryside duringsome quasi-Victorian period. There, impoverished undertaker, widower, andfather of seven children Mr Brown has been given anultimatum by his great aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury):marry in a month, or she'll cut off his allowance and the children will beseparated and sent into care.
Thechildren themselves, led by Love, Actually's Thomas Sangster, haven'thelped matters, and are so impossibly naughty that they've run through asuccession of nannies despite the best efforts of their young maid Evangeline(Kelly Macdonald).
Enter Nanny McPhee, warts and all - and enter,from another corner, the equally terrifying, although for different reasons,Mrs Quickly (Celia Imrie), who has designs on thehapless Mr Brown.
This is sprightlyentertainment from Thompson, who takes evident delight in her heavy disguiseand supreme on-screen uglification. Firth gives goodromantic support, the children charm, the fairytale aspects work, and there'sall the RADA character-work (Jacobi, Staunton) requiredfrom an old-fashioned British family movie.
Sometimes it can feel tooperfectly worked out and, like many Working Title films, has a tendency toover-egg the finale in a wedding sequence which is over-the-top, even for apotential audience which likes to dress for school in pink and purple sequins.
Technical credits, includingcolourful production design, are solid throughout, and round off asmoothly-executed feature from director Kirk Jones, his first since 1998's
Working Title Films
Three Strange Angels
Nanny MacPhee Productions
Emma Thompson from the Nurse Matilda children's book series by Christianna Brand