It was not without some trepidation that we lined up for the summer comedy Nanny McPhee Returns. The ability of the summer movie machine to crush the heart and soul out of original movies when the sequel comes around is practically legendary. Emma Thompson has amazingly managed to pull off a sequel that is as wonderfully old fashioned, magical, endearing and almost up to the standard of the original movie.
This instalment of Nanny McPhee takes place during WWII either during The Blitz or later in the war the exact timing is unclear and not really necessary to the story other than the fact that Isabel Green, a harried mother of three (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who's husband is at the front finds her already difficult situation made more so by the arrival of her niece and nephew, evacuees from London, to the family farm. To make matters worse – things can always get worse – Isabel's brother-in-law Phil Green (Rhys Ifans) is trying to settle a gambling debt by selling the farm out from under Isabel and her children.
Into the bedlam that is Isabel's life arrives Nanny McPhee to teach everyone the lessons they need to learn. Just as with the original Nanny McPhee the condition of Nanny McPhee remaining with the family is: When you need me, but do not want me, then I will stay. When you want me, but do not need me, then I have to go. With a mixture of magic, subterfuge and generosity of spirit Nanny McPhee helps bring the family back from the brink of implosion.
If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing the original Nanny McPhee it would be worth a look before seeing this instalment but not necessary. Both movies are defiantly over the top harkening back to elements of screwball comedy, Busby Berkeley choreography and British steel in the face of hardship. Whether one enjoys this kind of a children's movie is entirely a question of their ability to suspend disbelief and embrace this throw back to fanciful innocent storytelling (think Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks). On the whole this is a wonderful, light weight family comedy and well worth the time spent with the kids.