RELEASED in 2005, the original Nanny McPhee was a strong successor to Mary Poppins in every way.
Adapted from the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand, the film pitted seven mischievous tykes against an ugly woman with a snaggle tooth, warts and an oversized nose, who had a few tricks up her sleeve when it came to childcare.
Susanna White’s colourful sequel casts an even more bewitching spell, introducing the mysterious nanny to a family in crisis in wartime Britain.
Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang is a glorious, rumbustious romp that once again demonstrates Emma Thompson’s magical touch in front of and behind the camera.
As screenwriter, she crafts believable, funny and endearing characters, whose plights move us to laughter and tears as the plot twists and turns in unexpected directions.
In her guise as the eponymous guardian angel, Thompson underlines the central message about inner beauty with another sparkling performance. Also, she gels wonderfully with her young co-stars – who capture the emotional distress of children who are separated from their military-bound fathers.
While her husband (McGregor) is away at war, Mrs Green (Gyllenhaal) valiantly takes care of the farm with her three children, Norman (Butterfield), Megsie (Woods) and Vincent (Steer).
When she’s not tending the homestead, Mrs Green earns a little money in the village shop – run by doddering Mrs Docherty (Smith).
Chaos ensues when snooty, well-to-do cousins Cyril (Vlahos) and Celia (Taylor-Ritson) come to stay and take an immediate dislike to the rest of the brood.
“We have come from far away – from the land of soap and indoor toilets,” announces Cyril.
“Kill the townies and eat their heads!” scream the farm children.
Thankfully, Nanny McPhee (Thompson) arrives in the nick of time to prevent serious injury. She uses her special walking stick to show the little brats that the best way to overcome any problem is to work together.
Meanwhile, Mrs Green’s brother Phil (Ifans) schemes to get his sister to sell the farm so he can pay off his spiralling debts and avoid a beating from Miss Topsey (Matthews) and hulking sidekick, Miss Turvey (Brand).
Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang is a treat for kids big and small, striking just the right balance between cuteness and heart-tugging sentiment, not least when Cyril heads to London to beg his father (Fiennes) for a favour.
Smith, Ifans and the demented double-act of Matthews and Brand provide unadulterated comic relief, aided by a litter of synchronised swimming pigs.
Young actors impress with their timing and cry convincingly in pivotal scenes.
The explosive ending, promised in the film’s title, leaves a genuine lump in the throat that keeps the barn door open for another visit from the enigmatic governess.
Come back soon Nanny McPhee.