Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nanny McPhee Movies

After reading the Nurse Matilda stories (click on link to read my review) I wanted to re-watch Nanny McPhee the movie, starring Emma Thompson, Colin Firth and Angela Lansbury. Jonathan and I had watched the movie some time ago, shortly after it came out, and I remember thinking it was weird but thought I'd give it another go.

My opinion? It's still weird.

Grant it, it does follow the storyline reasonably from the first story by Christinna Brand - Nurse Matilda. The biggest deviation, of course, is that in the book Mrs. Brown is alive and well and in the movie Mr. Brown (the illustrious Colin Firth) is single. (I suppose that's because Colin Firth has to be single in the movie roles he takes on. Who knows!) At any rate, he's single and Lady Adelaide Stitch (his wealthy relation played by Angela Lansbury) is demanding that he remarry within a month's time if he desires to continue receiving a monthly allowance from her purse.

Meanwhile, it is very clear that Mr. Brown's scullery maid, Evangeline, is very much in love with him. In a scenario taken from the book, Aunt Adelaide demands to adopt one of Mr. Brown's multiple daughters and raise her as her own. The children do not want to be separated so Evangeline both hopefully and reluctantly pretends to be one of the Brown children and leaves the home to obtain a "proper upbringing."

The children on screen mimic what I would imagine the children in the book to be: excessively naughty. They get into all the scrapes on screen that are mentioned in the book and have several lessons to learn. In the book they have seven lessons to learn while under the care of Nanny McPhee and on screen they only have five. But they are just as sinful and mischievous no matter the number of lessons to learn and Nanny McPhee handles them exactly the same - with firm determination and resolve. She is a bit more lenient in the movie than in the book though, offering to let the children misbehave so as to disrupt their father's potential engagement and wedding to a ridiculous woman that they do not like. She allows them to misbehave if, and only if, they agree to accept the consequences of their actions.

Notes of concern about the movie (other then the fact that the children behave atrociously):

  • As an act of desperation to keep Aunt Adelaide's monthly allowance (which allows his family to remain in their home and all together), Mr. Brown pursues an engagement with the widowed Mrs. Selma Quickly. Mrs. Quickly is an abominable character who dresses horrifically and is a gossipy flirt. She is only in love with the idea of marrying into money. The attempted proposal scene is very suggestive. The children are in the background, trying to wreck havoc on their father's attempt to propose. In an effort to protect Mrs. Quickly from his children's nefarious plots, it appears to Mrs. Quickly that Mr. Brown is coming on to her. The scene is a bit over the top and one that would likely go over most children's heads. However, as an adult watching, I was very uncomfortable with the idea of exposing children to the over exaggerated ridiculousness of Mr. Brown's supposed behavior.
  • As noted, Aunt Adelaide took Evangeline to raise a daughter, supposing she was one of Mr. Brown's children. At the end of the movie, Evangeline emerges as Mr. Brown's heart's desire. This confuses Aunt Adelaide to no end, never suspecting that Evangeline was not one of Mr. Brown's children. "Incest?!!?" she asks in disbelief. The minister on hand to conduct the wedding ceremony pulls Mr. Brown aside to find out whether or not Evangeline is a "fruit of his loins" because he would be unable to marry them if that were the case. I thought raising the issue and question of incest in a film meant for children was completely out of line. Certainly I understand the character's confusion but to raise such an issue in a family film seemed to me uncalled for and I did not appreciate that at all.

The film style reminded me of something I might see in a Tim Burton film. Loud, extreme and over exaggerated. (I should point out that I'm not a fan of Burton and have only seen one of his films, which I disliked. So my comparison isn't exactly meant to be kind.) This film is marketed as "The New Mary Poppins."

Say it ain't so!

After watching the first movie I sighed with dread at the idea of watching Nanny McPhee Returns but I had set my hand to the plough and there was no turning back. Jonathan wanted to see it too so when the boys were in bed we turned on this movie.

You should know that it is nothing at all like the book. Different family. Different time frame. Different set of weirdness. (If that is at all possible.)

Here is where I confess that my hands slipped off the plough and I made it about 15 minutes in before I declared that I just couldn't bring myself to waste my time on this movie. Naughty kids. Company I wouldn't keep. Didn't follow the stories so I couldn't even justify my watching it from a literary perspective of any sort. I cannot and would not recommend it at all. Unless of course you think that watching children be rude, disrespectful and naughty to be a funny thing. I do not. (It's kind of like watching Jon & Kate Plus 8. "What you need is Nanny McPhee...")

I have paid my dues to Nanny McPhee and I think we'll stick to Mary Poppins in the future.


Stephanie Kay said...

Well! Tell us what you really think, Carrie. ;) (totally teasing you! I love that you give totally honest reviews!) So we won't be reading or watching these movies. As for Colin Firth's character being single, my guess it's it's much more acceptable to have a widower with out of control children than to see a mom with out of control kids. Nobody's thinking - "what a terrible mom."

Unknown said...

I don't remember the first one too much, but I have to disagree on the second one.

I really felt like the story and cinematography was beautiful (not for little kids though, because the storyline is sort of heavy with the war -- maybe 8 and up?).

The reason I thought the second was good is that 1/2 the kids were naughty, and the other half were good (until their naughty bratty cousins arrived, and then they fought with them), but then they DID completely turn around and learned a lesson.

But I'm not going to make you watch it -- but I would urge your readers to give it a try.

And like Stephanie, even if I disagree, I LOVE it when you go off on a rampage -- ha!

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