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Nanny McPhee (2005) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Image“Nanny McPhee” is based on a series of children’s books and has been adapted for the screen by Emma Thompson.  The film doesn’t succeed on all levels, but this is certainly an enjoyable youngsters’ film.  Even parents will find parts of this film interesting.  While the film is not as magical as it could have been, and can be over the top at others, it still has attraction.

The film is another adaptation of the fairy tale stories in which the stepmother is evil and horrid.  In this case, Mr. Brown is a widowed man that is left with seven children to care for on a mortician’s salary.  The only way he can keep his family together and retain the house is by receiving an allowance from the children’s great aunt, a vile woman.  Her ultimatum is that he must remarry by the end of the month in order for the allowance to continue.

The children are sorely misbehaved.  Anything wrong that a child can do, these children do it.  They have no respect for authority and run amuck all day long.  They have succeeded in driving away every nanny in the land.  When the nanny service has nothing left to offer, the mysterious Nanny McPhee appears.

McPhee, played by Emma Thompson, has five lessons to teach the children before her work is done.  As she puts it, “The way I work is when you need me but do not want me I must stay.  When you want me but no longer need me, I must go.”

Is the film predictable?  Absolutely.  However, it is still enjoyable.  Though, I doubt I would say that if I saw it another time or two.  The children have a tendency to overdo their scenes leading to annoyance more than anything.  Colin Firth is frazzled, as his character should be, but he lacks a connection with the audience.  Emma Thompson is the star of the show, always remaining mysterious and calm.  The cast works well together as a whole.  Many the members from “Love Actually” reappear in this film.  Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Thomas Sangster, as well as the actor who plays the reverend all come back together for this feature.

This is a combination of several classic fairy tales leading to a fairy tale ending, well in the movie anyway.  Audiences may be left shrugging their shoulders.
While the film may be lacking for many people, there is no question that the visual quality is stunning.  With only a hiccup or two the video quality is very pleasing to the eyes.  The colors are lush and vibrant.  More than any film I can think of recently, the colors pop from the screen.  The Blu-ray provides just the right touch to bring the fairy tale production design to life.  Sets and costumes are full of life.  The yellows, greens and purples all blend perfectly.  Only on one occasion did I spot some chroma bleed.  Black levels are substantial and there is only a brief moment of crushing.  Shadow delineation is excellent.  Textures and details add to the dimensionality of the film.  Edges remain sharp throughout.  Even the CGI work in the film blends nicely with the production video.  I was pleasantly surprised by the CGI quality of the white wedding sequence.  It was simply beautiful.

Unfortunately, the audio track doesn’t quite reach the high points of the video track.  This is a terrific DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, however, the holes in the sound design really show through now.  The frequency response is uneven.  It almost seems as though the audio was mixed on a improperly calibrated dubbing stage.  The low frequencies are solid but are unbalanced with the more broadband frequency spectrum.  Everything above 120Hz is flat and dull, while the low frequency enhancements are tight and bombastic.  I love the LFE sound when the cane hits the floor and sends shockwaves through the speakers.  This is perhaps the best part of the entire audio track.  Like I said, it is just unbalanced with the remainder of the film.  Surround activity comes and goes, creating half a movie in which the audience is immersed and a separate film in which the audience feels like they are looking through a window at the action beyond.  Dynamic range is decent, but it mainly falls as a difference in the LFE channel.  The five main speaker channels are fairly flat.  Dialogue is centered but fails to provide intelligibility during certain scenes.  This is likely due to the production sound, but the EQ sounds muddy for a few lines that made me have to rewind to catch the phrase.  Nevertheless, the audio track provides more magical moments than the film itself.

The Blu-ray contains most of the special features that were present on the standard DVD.  All the features remain in standard definition.  “Casting The Children” is self-explanatory.  “Village Life” takes a look at the production design of the film.  “Nanny McPhee Makeover” goes behind the scenes of Emma Thompson’s make-up routine.  “How Nanny McPhee Came To Be” is a nice book-to-screen adaptation featurette.  The disc also includes a few deleted scenes and a gag reel.  Director Kirk Jones leads an audio commentary with the children of the film.  Sadly, the best commentary from the standard DVD, that of Emma Thompson has been left off the Blu-ray.  The special features section gets dinged for that oversight.

“Nanny McPhee” is not the most magical film out there, but children will get a kick out of it.  However, I’m not the film warrants the theatrical release of a sequel, “Nanny McPhee Returns,” being released on August 20, despite its worldwide release that has been occurring from March to July 2010.  While the sequel has received about as much praise as the original, once again it does a great cast with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Maggie Smith.  Give the first film a rent for sure.

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