Take your kids to see Nanny McPhee Returns (2010). I did not see the first Nanny McPhee (2005) nor have I read the Nurse Mathilda (Christiana Brand) books that the movies are based on, so I came to the film with three grandkids and no expectations. I loved it and they did too.
Emma Thompson once again is the force behind this film. She wrote the film script, she stars as Nanny McPhee (“small c, large P”), and she co-produced the film, the role that likely gave her the most influence over the film. The staging, the acting, the casting, the dialogue, and the plot are wonderfully crafted. I know I’m gushing, but I can’t help it—a superbly done film which children will enjoy and adults as well.
Justly briefly, let me list for you some reasons that you parents and grandparents will enjoy the film:
- The adult humor is not based on double entendre. You get to laugh innocently—such a rare pleasure.
- Look at the quality of the cast: Emma Thompson (Oscar winner), Ralph Fiennes (2x Oscar nominee), Dame Maggie Smith (one of the greatest actresses ever and 2x Oscar winner), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Oscar nominee).
- With the exception of the lone “villain” (Rhys Ifans), none of the characters is caricatured! They all have wonderfully humorous moments, but the slapstick does not overwhelm the humor!
- The children are also well cast and well directed. They behave quite believably and are very likable!
As you leave the theater , here are some talking points for you if you like to use films as teachable moments for your kids.
- Why were those kids so rowdy—so out of control before Nanny McPhee arrived? You can go two directions here: one, the dad was gone to war (which is true for lots of kids today as well), and two, Mom had to work, so they were left alone a lot. Kids really need two parents—or they can get out of control! It may surprise your children to know there are reasons why kids are rowdy and out of control. Help them think of those possibilities—and they might begin to understand themselves better.
- Why were the rich kids so uppity to the other children? I heard the story from my grandkids once about their visiting at a friend’s house who was quite wealthy. When it came time to pick up the toys and go home, the little friend said, “Don’t do that. We have people!” I’m sure the parents of that child would have also been embarrassed, but the fact is most of us have—or wish for—certain privileges. When we have them, we have to really work hard not to make ourselves more important than others. That’s hard for kids—and for their parents.
- What if you had to live in “the land of Poo?” When I was a boy, we used to love to go to my uncle’s dairy farm. It was a whole different world of experiences, smells, and adventures! We hunted lizards with bows and arrows, swam in the cow tank, drank milk straight out of the cow, and ,yes, I even shoveled cow droppings sometimes for my uncle—great lessons for a city kid. If your kids are overly homogenized, you might want to make friends with a farmer . . . .It’s good for kids to learn that much of the world does not use hand sanitizer—and to be flexible.
- Why did Nanny McPhee look so ugly at the beginning of the story? Especially young kids may need help with the subtle transformation of the nurse. As the movie children learn each lesson, the ugly characteristics of Nanny’s face disappear. Sometimes other people look ugly to us because of the way we are acting more than the way they are acting.
Of course, the obvious lessons of obeying, sharing, courage, faith, and working together can be covered. In fact, you might want to start giving medals for learning lessons as Nanny McPhee did. Just be sure, like Nanny McPhee, that you don’t make them cheap. I loved the line when she actually hinders the children from catching the piglets; she says, “Already caught two? Hm, let’s make it more difficult!” She was not being mean; she knew that all of us need a serious level of difficulty to really learn any of life’s important lessons. Don’t make your medals too easy to get!
Now that I’ve discovered this series, I intend to find a copy of the original Nanny McPhee (2005) and watch it soon. The reviews say it too is “magical.” Goodness is always magical.