Nanny McPhee has a twisted visual imagination meant for kids. Technically, its cotton candy look has a rich layer of colors ranging from the Disney pastels to the “Roald Dahl-esque” colors.
Other Movie Reviews from 2010 Archive: Animation, Children, Family and Teen Films
As a British kiddie flick, Nanny McPhee is an appealing tale melding with exaggerated visual and acting styles. It can bring a magical experience to the young at heart. The story is simple and well-intended. It may be quite conventional and slapstick in virtually every regard ,but it is convincingly an enjoyable nasty children’s tale. With one tap of her cane, Nanny McPhee can help bring back the children in us.
Comparisons to Mary Poppins may be inevitable, but this movie actually falls between that and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Based on the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand, this is a quirky adaptation treated in a fantasy-cheesy way. This British picture is very predictable, as many other average children movies. While it is quite corny for adults to take, it can be an enjoyable treat for the little kids. The audience must watch the movie without questioning the shallow and predictable story and the minor booboos and misuse and overuse of some artistic elements. Taking the humor and the fairy tale story in an escapist fashion is the only way to enjoy it.
The production value sets a feast-like visual treat: the sugary production design, the always prop-filled frame, the blue-lit sets enhancing the night’s color, the pink-and-red highlights, the striking combination of day-glo psychedelic colors, and the overall color scheme treated in wildly, cartoony extremes. It radiates a spunky story with such an enchanted feel and fairy tale look. Indeed, it is bloody maximalist!
Ironically, some may find it lacking that visual dazzle. It tries to escape things that fall short by just using a garish neon color palette contrasted against clownish costumes, as if there is no tomorrow.
With a gleefully morbid sense of humor, Nanny McPhee has a charm that combines sentimentality with being morbid, so as to exude that fantasy, live-action cartoon for its target market. It leads to a slapstick showdown of a winning tale about naughty children in need of love and attention and the mysterious governess who comes to their aid.
There are moral lessons to learn, storybook-style. A DVD or Blu-ray copy of this movie is an ideal buy for parents who want something to show to their kids at home.
Kirk Jones’ direction and Emma Thompson’s script have clear messages and they don’t resort to too complicated and manipulative scenes for them to get to the surface. Jones is wise to keep the movie short, just enough to keep the attention of its target audience. However, the story is very predictable. From Mrs. Quickly’s aura to Evangeline’s fate, everything that happens is what every person would likely expect. Nevertheless, the movie’s comic side and uncanny dignity to the whimsical and wholesome script maintain that generally needed appeal for children.
The morbid-looking Nanny McPhee curls her protruding front tooth over her lower lip while working with seven children and a barnyard of animals within the house. Thompson’s ineffable grace and expressionless demeanor as Nanny McPhee convey the power and strength of her character. Colin Firth as the children’s hapless father is stereotypical. While being more interested with his newspaper than with his children, his performance is not that interesting as well. Thomas Sangster as Simon is terrific in his role as the eldest brother.
The other children give average but funny performances. Angela Lansbury as the dreaded Aunt Adelaide interprets her role with an uncanny performance. The cook is just a walking cliché. Nevertheless, she is effective. The Kate Winslet look-alike Kelly McDonald as Evangeline is fine for her role as a kind, beautiful, undereducated maid who dreams of a better life. But she looks off and really unconvincing as the new Mrs. Brown. She looks too young. Celia Imrie as Mrs. Quickly looks naturally bitching and funny at the same time.
The orchestral music adds to that fairy tale appeal. The unconvincing dancing and smiling donkey looks cute on its own as a short animation piece. But as part of the scene, the way it has been animated looks off for the ensemble. It looks corny, too. The snow-turned dress of Evangeline may not be a technically excellent special effects effort, but it has worked with grace for the scene. The transition of a spring-inspired wedding to a solemnized winter wedding is cinematic. However, the effortless transition from spring to winter becomes too abrupt. The slapsticks work: the pie fight, the tea scene, and the first encounter of Nanny McPhee with the children rumbling in the kitchen.
The end animation sequence becomes a short film highlighting the things that happened in the story. It has a similarly appealing effect as Lemony Snickets’ A Series of Unfortunate Events. The end credits interacting with the animation and summarizing the story and characters of the movie brings an entertaining end to this whimsical picture.