Director: Susanna White
Cast: Emma Thompson, Rhys Ifans, Maggie Gyllenhaal
"When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but do not need me, then I must go". So spake Nanny McPhee (Thompson) back in 2005. Now she's back again to say it all over again. Need a bumpy-faced old lady to teach your kids five lessons and gradually transform into Emma Thompson? Mrs Green (Gyllenhaal) does. And Nanny McPhee's the woman for the job.
You see Mrs Green has a farm to run. And the man of the house is off playing soldiers in WWII. So she's left alone with her three children, their two snotty cousins, and a bunch of prize piglets. While she looks to sell them on and fund her family life, her evil brother (Ifans) is waiting in the wings with a contract and pen to sign, wanting to take over the whole farm. As far as family drama goes, it's hardly The Archers.
Still, things trot along with Thompson's trademark make-up and her Sweet And Educational Screenplay for Young Children. But between Gyllenhaal's Thompson-like English accent and the children's earnest over-acting, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang ends up far too wholesome for modern audiences; in a time of films with names like How to Train your Dragon, Nanny McPhee and The Magic Stick hardly works with such twee humour. Flying Pigs! Maggie Smith sitting on a cow pat! It's nice to have something that isn't a Pixar rip-off, but you can still lay on "the magic" a bit thick.
There are some laughs, admittedly. But all three of them come straight from Bill Bailey, who turns up as a guy with a strange fondness for pigs ("I had a pig once who could play Scrabble"). The rest of it lacks the first film's dark, twisted humour. The visuals are alright and Raiph Fiennes briefly appears as a wonderfully pompous British General, but Nanny McPhee is sorely in need of a spark. 99 minutes in and it never comes. What we get instead is Ewan McGregor walking over the top of a hill all ready to snog Maggie Gyllenhaal. Presumably the big bang comes later.
"When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but do not need me, then I must go". Nanny McPhee's return is a sanitary and safe sequel for small children. But this time round, we don't really want her, or need her.