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Mary Poppins got up on the wrong side of the bed

Shauna Farnell
Special to the Daily
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One might call “Nanny McPhee,” the “Mary Poppins” of the new century. But there’s nothing particularly modern about it, save the close-honing cinematography and vibrant color … , Oh, and how it follows suit to the way that British children’s movies have become a bit stranger and darker in the last couple of decades. If you’ve seen the previews and find the nanny’s snaggletooth and warts to be ridiculous and highly unconvincing, you’ll double that sense of reality loss when you see the movie. But this is surely part of the gimmick …The contrived story line and the fact that the film doesn’t take place in an era of children hypnotized by TV and video games is half of its charm.

Kirk Jones’ directs this adaptation of the “Nurse Matilda” novels, and the screenplay is written by none other than Nanny Mcphee (Emma Thompson) herself. The film depicts the lives of rowdy, uncontrollable, motherless British children who eliminate nannies one by one by putting tarantulas in their hair and sneaking frog eggs into their tea. They tie up the cook, leave messes wherever they go, never listen to their father, (who doesn’t have the nerve or desire to personally implement discipline anyway), and defy all manner of authority.Then Nanny McPhee shows up sucking on her great big tooth and ready to take over. She wasn’t summoned or called by anyone, but, much in the same magical way that Mary Poppins travels by umbrella and materializes on the spot, Nanny McPhee can vanish and reappear at will. Certainly there are similarities between the two, but a mutual comeliness isn’t one of them. Nanny Mcphee leaves the first impression of a frightening elephant lady. But the challenge for the children (other than to learn to do what she says before she whips them into shape with her magic) is to learn to love her despite her hairy warts and big, fake, giant tooth.Similarly to how the children in “Mary Poppins” jump into a street painting and start high kicking with cartoon penguins, distinguishing the genre as a clear-cut fantasy, the children in “Nanny Mcphee” find themselves in cahoots with the family mule which suddenly takes on the ability to sing and dance.Silly? Yes. Amusing? That, too.

Pair all of this with the Cedric Brown the widower (Colin Firth) working as a mortician and forever conjuring up images of Mark Darcy (of “Bridget Jones’ Diary” fame). Ridiculous or not, nobody can say this is not an entertaining movie. And, aside from kids who are disturbed by images of the film’s family man during a casual day at the office – ie., working on a corpse – there are many fine lessons for children in “Nanny McPhee,” particularly those who don’t obey their guardians. Because the children’s father is financially dependent on his Aunt Adelaide, played by Angela Lansbury (who has got to be about 112 years old by now), Adelaide insists that Brown must find himself a new wife. He has a month to do it. While his pushiest potential bride provides for some adult yet gently wrought sexual innuendoes, overall, this isdefinitely a film for kids. Add a couple of fart jokes to the food fights and dancing donkeys, and every child – naughty ones more than most – ought to have a good time with “Nanny McPhee.”



Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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