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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.33%
Worth A Look50%
Average: 16.67%
Pretty Bad: 4.17%
Total Crap: 20.83%

5 reviews, 18 user ratings

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Nanny McPhee
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by U.J. Lessing

"Just a Spoonful of Ugly Makes McPhee’s Cred Go Down"
1 stars

Like Emma Thompson buried under a ton of ugly makeup, “Nanny McPhee” is a disguised film. This troubled family movie attempts to emulate a Jane Austen-like time and place, boasts a cast of distinguished British actors, and chooses a classic series of children’s stories as its source material. But make no mistake about it; underneath this proper surface, lurks sadism, bodily assaults against physically unattractive people, and general meanness. Nanny McPhee may be trying to join the ranks of classics like “Mary Poppins,” but it has more in common with cruel films like “The Pacifier” and “Home Alone.”

The film introduces us to the widower, Mr. Brown (Colin Firth) and his seven naughty children. The subtext is that they are spoiled tykes reacting to the death of their mother.

(Personally, I think their antisocial behavior stems from living in a town inhabited by folks wearing exaggerated prosthetics.)

Mr. Brown is too stressed out to give his children any attention. As a mortician, Brown makes little financial gain, and his cruel but wealthy benefactor, Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury) is forcing him to remarry in the next month or she will cut off his funds. Everyone is distressed, even the scullery maid!

Enter Nanny McPhee, a grotesque, mole-covered woman with a bulbous nose and one lone, sickening, protruding tooth. She takes over the care of the children using few words, and, with a whomp of her mighty walking stick, their naughtiness is met with magic.

The pretext is that Nanny McPhee is silently helping the children develop coping mechanisms for dealing with the loss of their mother while keeping the family together.

McPhee is a composite of Margaret Hamilton, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the grunting Karl from “Sling Blade.” Underneath this inarticulate persona lurks Emma Thompson, one of the most charming actresses alive. Since she wrote the screenplay, it boggles the mind why Thompson would create such a thin character based entirely on make-up and mannerisms. McPhee is a humdrum creation.

What the film “Nanny McPhee” teaches is that sadism is satisfactory as long as it’s directed at the right people. Ugly adults are tied up. Ugly adults are forced to eat worms. Ugly adults are tricked into mistaking pigs for children. Ugly adults are splattered with goop. Ugly adults are humiliated and ridiculed. As a fan of slapstick, I’m all for mayhem, but when humor lies in the pain of victims and not in the mayhem itself, the comedy becomes cruel.

The film makes a lot of bizarre choices. Is there any other reason to characterize Mr. Brown as an undertaker apart from an excuse to use dead people as set dressing? The great thespians Derek Jacobi and Imelda Staunton show up in brief roles that require no effort or talent. Angela Lansbury is drawn out of retirement only to be slathered with a phony face and forced to leer and ogle.

Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh’s presence on the screen was once heralded as the dawning of new generation of quality British acting, and it’s a sad fact that these talents have been reduced to playing flat character roles, brief cameos, and throw away parts in the Harry Potter series.

However, “Nanny McPhee” is worse. We’ve seen Emma Thompson’s talent devalued by Hollywood before. This is the first time we’ve seen her devalue herself.

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originally posted: 01/28/06 09:04:42
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User Comments

3/18/16 Charles Tatum A lovely little story 4 stars
12/26/12 dr.lao Mary Poppins as re-written by psychopaths 1 stars
3/10/11 L T Worms Emma Thompson is now being trusted to bring a new MY FAIR LADY to the screen. Eh gads! 1 stars
9/23/10 I. Rich U J Lessing's review spot on plus once again Colin Firth stinks. 1 stars
8/11/10 Carol Miles This pc stinks, and so do all the seasoned thespians. 1 stars
3/23/08 Michelle Lau This film is kinda cool! 4 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Nanny Mcflop would be a better title for this rubbish. 2 stars
9/02/06 Chad Thomas Emma Thompson is great! 4 stars
8/19/06 Beau Great acting, but boring on-going scenes with a fantasy theme to it.overall average 3 stars
8/16/06 Louise Great fun, a little crazy, with a heart and soul. I was smiling at the end! 5 stars
7/28/06 Lizzie dazzling 5 stars
6/05/06 Jon Good, but could have been funnier... 4 stars
5/21/06 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Twisted enough to keep adults interested. 4 stars
5/11/06 Marcia Zargrassi Mary Poppins meets Tales From The Darkside meets Zombie Deerest meets Parent Crap. 2 stars
5/03/06 Ashley Hinz Touching film with a message. Emma sells it. 5 stars
2/23/06 bobbi If you don't take the plot seriously, it is a very enjoyable and clever film 4 stars
1/30/06 katsat Great for anyone with a sentimental streak and an appreciation for quirky fun (like me). 5 stars
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  27-Jan-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 09-May-2006



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