Sunday, May 26, 2013

Movie Review: Nanny McPhee

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some fun moments with great effects and looks
Cons: Over the top with lack of character development/growth
The Bottom Line:
Others really liked
But Nanny McPhee left me
Rather indifferent




"I Did Knock."

Nearing the top of the list of movies I was sorry to miss in the theater in recent years was Nanny McPhee.  So, when I was on TV a few months back, I gladly recorded it.  After all, I had heard plenty of praise.  Watching it left me mildly amused yet wondering why it was so praised.

Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) has a problem.  He is a widower supported by his aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury) who is going to cut him off if he doesn't remarry by the end of the month.  And if he doesn't get the monthly stipend from her, he and his children will be separated.

And he has a lot of children.  Seven to be exact.  Unfortunately, they do not behave.  In fact, they have turned driving their nannies off into a game and are thrilled that the most recent, number 17, is a record for speed.

Into this mischief walks Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson).  She has five lessons to teach the kids, but what they learn will be up to them.  Will she be enough to make the kids behave?  Will Cedric find someone to marry?

The first few minutes actually put a smile on my face and left me hoping for a good film.  But as things got started, it slowly went down hill.  First of all the story was predictable.  That is never a deal killer for me, but it means the rest of the film needs to step up to the plate.

The actions of the kids when they get into mischief are supposed to be cute and funny.  They actually made me cringe most of the time.  There was nothing lighthearted about it.  It was actually quite mean.  Nanny McPhee's magic, on the other hand, was funny.  It reminded me on more than one occasion of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books because it exaggerated the kids' behavior to get to them to stop.

Another strike against the movie was the lack of character development.  Now, in the case of Nanny McPhee, her mysteriousness was actually a plus.  She was supposed to be a mystery.  But I never felt close to any of the others.  It wasn't until the climax that I actually cared about Cedric's attempts to marry.  And of the seven kids, the only one whose name I could remember was Simon.  Even then, I think he's supposed to be the oldest since he's the ringleader, but I sometimes thought that one of the girls was older.

The special effects, on the other hand, are wonderful.  There's nothing remotely fake about how they work, and that includes the dancing horse.

And the look of the film is quite wonderful.  It is full of rich, deep colors that help create the fairytale world where the story takes place.

The acting is nothing special here.  I'm not going to say that any of it was bad, but it wasn't that great, either.  I think part of my problem is that it was purposely over the top.  In fact, the entire thing felt very over the top to me.  The one exception to that is Emma Thompson who brings just the right balance to her character.  She doesn't get lost in the shuffle, but she is a bit more reserved than everyone else.

In the end, Nanny McPhee was a pleasant but forgettable way to spend a couple hours.  Don't avoid it, but there's no need to rush out and see it, either.

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