Oh, to be Nanny McPhee. To travel early-20th century England, using your magical powers to torture bratty kids into behaving at will. To be able to command your pet bird to disarm Nazi bombs with a wink of an eye. To possess the benefit of inexplicably vanishing your unsightly blemishes whenever you correct a family crisis.
What we truly need as a society is an Aliens vs. Predators like extravaganza in which McPhee goes nanny-a-nanny against Mary Poppins.
But until then, we’ll have to settle for McPhee sequels such as Nanny McPhee Returns, which one by one grant the good Nanny Google-search superiority over her American Idol descendant, Katharine McPhee.
This time around, screenwriter-actress goes all out with the poop and flatulence jokes, as though she’s just discovered her inner 1990s Kevin Smith. If you ever wanted to see a close-up of a cow heeding nature’s call, a geriatric woman use manure as a picnic seat cushion or a bird lay waste to a wheat field with a titanic gas blast, this is your film.
This second dose of McPheever covers the bases of the first movie, peppering in a little more humor while removing some of the sentiment. Set during World War II, a ranch-at-home mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal) struggles to corral her three wild kids and live-in niece and nephew as her husband battles it out against Hitler’s cronies.
The farm kids despise their city-slicker cousins and make mommy want to tear her forced British accent out, but in comes McPhee to save the day with her snaggletoothed witchcraft.
McPhee clearly holds herself in high moral regard, ignorant of the fact that she’s truly a tyrant who forces others to bend to her will by tossing around her supernatural heft. Believe me, you’d start sharing your toys too if the alternative was to be stuck in a perpetual zombie state spanking yourself over and over until you finally tell McPhee “sorry.”
Luke, my 3-year-old, enjoyed the movie while also becoming mildly terrified of the heroine. Only time will be able to tell whether or not the nightmares he’ll have about Nanny McPhee coming in to trap him in his room with a wild elephant until he agrees to share a bed with his cousin turn out to be worth it. Until then, I can always warn him that if he doesn’t pick up his Legos I’ll revel in the ability to send Nanny McPhee and her farting shoulder bird after him.
Starring Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rhys Ifans. Written by Thompson, based on characters created by Christianna Brand. Directed by Susanna White. 109 minutes. Rated PG.