I watch a lot of movies, one way or another, some are brilliant, some are entirely second rate. But even so, it's rare thing that a film elicits the amount of praise that I feel the latest installment of Emma Thompson's Nanny McPhee saga deserves.
To start with, it has an incredible cast including Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ralph Fiennes, Rhys Iffans, and, rather surprisingly, Ewan McGregor. Who knew?!
As fun as the previous installment undoubtedly was, I did spend the entire time wanting to strangle the costume designer. Jacqueline Durran is fabulous - she's Academy Award nominated for heaven's sake - but the colors! They're migraine inducing. Fortunately, with the shift in time period for the new movie, you no longer require sunglasses when watching.
Time has moved on apace since the last installment (which probably occurred in the later half of the Victorian/early Edwardian era). Now, it is WWII. The Blitz has come to London and "The Cousins" have come to the country. While the first installment starred some serious up-and-coming young actors - Thomas Sangster springs to mind - Nanny McPhee Returns doesn't. (One possible exception being Asa Butterfield, last seen in BBC's Merlin as the young and faintly menacing Modred.) Good news is though, they may all be new to the world of acting, but they've done a good job.
The thing is, as silly and fantastic as this film is, it is clean. It has a ridiculous but effective villain in the form of Rhys Iffans, who in turn is terrorized by the equally ridiculous and menacing Katy Brand and Sinead Matthews. But there isn't a scary moment. Worrying, yes. But you know, you just feel it, in your bones, that Nanny McPhee and the children, will save the day.
The other thing that happens in this film is something that I adore in sequels. It gives a little nod to its older sibling. I can't tell you what - that would be a spoiler - but I can tell you that it brings tears to the eyes. Just have some onions on hand in case your roommates walk in and ask why you're crying while watching a children's movie.
All in all, I loved this film. And by all means, if you haven't seen the original, go borrow it from Netflix before seeing the latest installment. You don't have to of course, because Nanny McPhee Returns (or Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang to our British readers) is intended to stand on its own. And it does. Brilliantly.
4 stars out of 5