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Nanny McPhee Returns (2010) Print E-mail
Friday, 17 December 2010
ImageOur favorite mystical nanny is back.  I don’t think any of us who ever saw the first film would have ever suspected that it would spawn a sequel.  But it has.  And thankfully it retains at least retains Emma Thompson in the lead role.  Still, a magic was missing from the first film and it is still missing from this sequel as well.

In brief, Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) is a scary looking person with huge warts and a snaggletooth that has been sent through the ages to single parents that are in need of help straightening out their children.  The way she works is, “When you need her, but do not want her then she must stay.  But when you want her but no longer need her then she must own.”

She teaches children five lessons, each lesson completed results in one of her unsightly features to disappear until she becomes the Emma Thompson we know and love.  The lessons for the unruly children are different each time.  The lessons in the first film were a lot stronger than these next five.

In “Nanny McPhee Returns,” Maggie Gyllenhaal portrays Isabel Green, a young mother of three on a farm outside of London during WWII.  She is overwhelmed with her job and trying to keep the farm afloat while her husband is off fighting.  She also must contend with her husband’s brother in desperate need of the deed to the farm, trying to get Isabel to sell her husband’s half, which she refuses.  Isabel has also taken in her niece and nephew from London.  This brings the total to five misbehaved children in the house.

As is Nanny McPhee’s way, she shows up just in the nick of time and begins to cast her magical stick.  As the film starts, I thought I was going to be in for the long haul as the sequence of events when McPhee introduces herself to the children is nearly the same as in the first film. Though I suppose some carryover is needed.  Luckily, the film takes a different route from there out. So I cannot that this is not just a carbon copy of events from the first film.
Where the problem with the film lies is with the fact that we know how Nanny McPhee works so there is no mystery.  There are simply a number of sequences that either you enjoy or don’t until we get to the inevitable ending.  Since this is a family movie there is no disaster or unexpected outcomes.  Everything works out perfectly for everyone involved.  So, what are we watching for?  The magical synchronized swimming piglets?  Well, that is about the only thing that peaks interesting throughout the film.  The piglet chase and captured sequence is fairly entertaining.

From the standpoint of an adult, this is a film that is not going to be the easiest to sit through with your kids.  Kids will love the magical tricks of Nanny McPhee and lose interest in the deeper emotions of the story.  Adults will shrug their shoulders at the magic and find the emotional story to be a bit less than truly touching.  There is a welcomed and unexpected throwback to the original film at the end that adults will pick up on and smile upon.

As seems to be the case with a lot of sequels, the video transfer is not quite as good as the original.  Chalk this up to a difference in the equipment used to originally shoot the film perhaps.  Overall, the image of “Nanny McPhee Returns” is a bit a soft.  Most will be unbothered by it, but it does take its toll on the consistency of the film’s image.  The countryside shots a marvelous, with colors that pop and wonderful brightness and contrast.  Then there are the interior, farmhouse shots that seem to suffer from original lighting choices.  I don’t mind the darkness of the image, but it is unresolved.  There is some minor crushing here and there and shadows are not very well defined.  Details remain clear for the most part, but they are not as defined as one would expect for such a new film.  Contrast and brightness levels are nicely balanced for outdoor shots, but leave something to be desired on the interior shots.  While this is very watchable transfer it lacks that ultimate punch.

Meanwhile, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track does convey a punch.  Using the same sound effect for Nanny McPhee’s stick as in the first film, it provides a nice coherency between the first and second films.  The dialogue is always intelligible, though sometimes it sounds a bit thin.  Ambience is convincing when outdoors or in the barn.  The surround channels get used for ambience and a few discrete effects.  I can’t really hold this against the transfer, but there are several missed opportunities for effects in the surround channels and some panning.  Chalk that up to some laziness.  Still, when the surround channels do come alive the directionality is excellent.  The wheat harvest sequence and the piglet sequence should give you plenty of immersion.  The LFE channel gets a few bumps here and there, particularly with the stick.  This is a warm and inviting soundtrack, which is odd given the time and place of the film.  One would think the sound designer and filmmakers would make the audio more cold and distant to fit the time period.  But I suppose this would alienate their children audiences.

“Nanny McPhee Returns” comes with a standard supplemental package that doesn’t really offering anything of importance.  There is an audio commentary with director Susanna White.  There are a collection of brief featurettes that take a look at some of the standard items in the film such as it being a sequel and the making of the piglet sequence.  There are 15 minutes of deleted scenes that actually may peak your interest.  “A Look Inside” is another brief featurette.  This disc comes enabled with BD-Live and Universal’s “Limited Time Bonus Movie View” feature.  This disc has DBox and pocketBLU functionality as well.

“Nanny McPhee Returns is a bit smoother than the original film, but it really doesn’t offer anything new. We still know the way she works and the outcome.  The video and audio transfers are quite good, but on the audio track really warrants the addition of this disc to your children’s collection.  I recommend at least giving this one a rent.

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