Nanny McPhee Returns — a Family Film, not a Kids’ Movie

by Jennifer Donovan

In Nanny McPhee Returns, Emma Thompson is back trying to help a whole new family learn to get along, care for one another, and to learn that with a little faith, they can solve their problems.

Synopsis: Nanny McPhee appears at the door of a harried young mother, Mrs. Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is trying to run the family farm while her husband is away at war. But once she’s arrived, Nanny McPhee discovers that Mrs. Green’s children are fighting a war of their own against two spoiled city cousins who have just moved in and refuse to leave.

One thing that Emma Thompson would like children to learn after watching the film: “I want them to leave the cinema feeling different. I want them to feel inspired, and I want them to see that they can solve their own problems with a little nudge here and there.”

The child actors in this film are both adorable and talented. In addition to Emma Thompson, the adult cast features other amazing actors such as Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maggie Smith, with guest appearances by Ewan MacGregor and Ralph Fiennes.

The quality of the acting, the beautiful filming and the storyline makes this movie reminiscent of the old-fashioned live-action Disney movies that we used to watch on TV on Sunday nights.

I had the opportunity to be a part of an Emma Thompson interview, and she had a lot to say about the marketing of films today.

I don’t think of Nanny McPhee as being specifically for children. I think of it as a shared experience. I can’t stand being corralled into groups so that we can sell something, like “This is a film for a 17-year boy.”

It’s hard to make something that everyone can watch, and it’s usually all about marketing.

While I know that this movie is firmly marketed at younger people. It is designed nonetheless for everyone. It is written for everyone.

I completely agree. When I previewed the movie last week, that’s exactly what I thought. There’s something to appeal to everyone: adorable farm animals and physical comedy for younger kids, a glimmer of romantic nostalgia for grown ups (with no tawdry “it will go over their heads anyway” attempts at grown-up humor or sexual references, which I appreciate more than I can say), and a well-developed story that will appeal to older kids and adults. I did not take my 6-year-old son to see it, but my daughter, who is almost 12 and thinks she’s too grown up for “kids’ movies” enjoyed it a lot, as did I.

If you are a Nanny McPhee fan, you will be happy to know that in addition to her many other projects (including working on the film adaptation of My Fair Lady which she just wrote and will be acting in as well), Emma Thompson is writing the 3rd Nanny McPhee film.

Nanny McPhee Returns opens Friday August 20. Watch the official trailer now.

Read my interview with Emma Thompson for more about her life on screen and as a mom.

Disclosure: Universal Pictures invited me to pre-screen the movie, and then arranged the interview with Emma Thompson over tea at a posh hotel in New York City.

Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer Donovan

Jennifer Donovan has been a part of the 5 Minutes for Mom team since 2007. She writes product reviews, covers events, and manages the 5 Minutes for Books weekly column and website. She lives in Houston and blogs at Snapshot about life with her family.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 (Michael)credit card application August 20, 2010 at 12:57 am

Nancy McPhee is really an inspirational movie. Watching this movie will realize you for something and learn how to appreciate everything especially with your family. This is really perfect to watch with your whole family.


2 Jennifer August 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I agree that it makes you evaluate yourself as a parent.


3 Woman Tribune August 20, 2010 at 3:49 am

I have not seen anything Nanny McPhee, but have heard a ton about it and all of the reviews have been very positive, which makes me excited. One thing that excited me more than anything about this movie is Maggie Gyllenhaal. She does such a wide array of differently-themed movies. She’s so versatile it’s almost freaky, yet she isn’t really getting a lot of credit that she (in my very humble opinion of course) rightfully deserves.


4 Jennifer August 20, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I think that people do think highly of Maggie G. It was neat to see her in the “mom role,” but she really did a great job.


5 Barbara August 20, 2010 at 7:22 am

Do you think a 6 year old would like it?


6 Jennifer August 20, 2010 at 5:12 pm

There were young kids there, and they enjoyed it. Some of the others who were there for the interview took their younger kids.

It does have more of a plot, but there are definitely funny moments that they will like, and the animals of course!!

I would say that this might not be a good “first movie” experience for a young preschooler, but if your child sits through movies, I think they’d like this one. Think more “Mary Poppins” than “The Incredibles.”


7 Tricia August 20, 2010 at 9:12 am

My 8 year old leave Nanny McPhee and we can’t wait to watch this one… WOO HOOO


8 Jennifer August 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I liked it just as much or more than the first one. Like I said, I was struck by the whole production of this one.


9 Debra August 22, 2010 at 9:50 pm

oh, there is NOTHING like a good family film. They are my favorites and I am looking forward to seeing this one as well. My kids are great ages for films like this ( 4,8 and 10) . We still watch Mary Poppins together and go off to bed singing “Let’s go fly a kite……..” There really is just something so heartwarming about watching feel-good movies with your family!


10 zhj August 23, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Thanks for the chance! Crossing my fingers!


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