Magical Powers from Above, But Who and Where Above?
Release Date: January 27, 2006
Starring: Colin Firth, Emma Thompson,
Kelly MacDonald, Thomas
Sangster, Angela Lansbury,
Derek Jacobi, Celia Imrie, and
Genre: Fantasy Comedy
Audience: Older children to adults
Runtime: 91 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Director: Kirk Jones
Executive Producer: Liza Chasin
Producer: Lindsay Doran, Tim Bevan, Eric
Fellner, and Debra Hayward
Writer: Emma Thompson
Address Comments To:Bob Wright, Chairman/CEO
Ron Meyer, President/COO
Stacey Snider, Chairman
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608-1085
Phone: (818) 777-1000
Web Page: www.universalstudios.com
Colin Firth plays Mr. Brown, a widowed mortician in Victorian England whose seven unruly children have run off 17 nannies. The nanny establishment has no more nannies, but Mr. Brown hears a mysterious female voice tell him that he needs Nanny McPhee. That night, the ugly Nanny McPhee (played by Emma Thompson), does indeed show up. The children have tied up the cook and commandeered the kitchen. Nanny McPhee uses her magical powers to strong-arm the children into cleaning up and going to bed.
In bed, the eldest, Simon, thinks Nanny McPhee is using hypnosis, so he tells the other children not to look into her eyes. When that fails, the children start to behave. Nanny McPhee tells Mr. Brown that she has five lessons to teach, and she has already taught two of them. After each of the first two lessons, Nanny McPhee's two warts disappear.
With seven children to feed, Mr. Brown has had to depend on his rich Aunt Adelaide. Adelaide has ordered him, however, to marry within the month, or she will stop giving him money. If that happens, the older children will have to go to the workhouse, and the remaining children will be given away to other people. Mr. Brown decides to marry the unappealing widow, Mrs. Quickly. The only way for the children to stop the wedding, apparently, is to go back to their rebellious ways.
Of course, there is a romantic subplot to this story. The scullery maid working for Mr. Brown, named Evangeline, is a decent but uneducated young woman. When Aunt Adelaide comes to take one of Mr. Brown's children off his hands, Simon volunteers Evangeline, because he knows how much she wants to continue her education. Evangeline appears at the wedding just in time to help save Mr. Brown from having to marry the horrible Mrs. Quickly.
Nanny McPhee doesn't always use her magical powers to train the children. She also teaches them to figure things out for themselves. Thus, some of the lessons the children learn are positive.
In the end, however, the children have to stage one more act of rebellion to get rid of Mrs. Quickly. Even Mr. Brown gets into the act in a way that discerning parents will not approve. Thus, although there are some positive, heartwarming elements to NANNY MCPHEE, the theme of magic or witchcraft and rebellion is strong in the story.
The title character's use of magical powers seems to be identified as coming from above. At least twice in the movie, Nanny McPhee bows to the empty chair that Mr. Brown keeps in honor of his dead wife. And, during the climax of the movie, McPhee looks to the heavens and calls down beautiful snow for Mr. Brown's wedding to Evangeline. She also looks to the sky again in another seeming acknowledgement of Mr. Brown's dead wife and some kind of Heaven. Thus, although Nanny McPhee tells Mr. Brown that she is a government nanny, she clearly works for another kind of government, but the movie doesn't explicitly acknowledge where exactly she gets her special powers or what kind of specific authority she serves. Anyone with such supernatural powers who doesn't acknowledge and worship the God of the Bible is a person to be shunned.
NANNY MCPHEE is very well done and entertaining, to the point of being delightful, but it teaches a belief in using supernatural magical powers to solve problems. This is a kind of witchcraft, especially since the movie never discloses where Nanny McPhee gets her special powers. Also, although there are some positive lessons and Nanny McPhee doesn't always use magic to force the children to do the right thing, the children have to stage one more act of rebellion. Even Mr. Brown gets into the act, in a way that discerning parents will not approve.