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Nanny McPhee & the Big Bang


Stars: Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Bailey, Daniel Mays, Ewan McGregor

Director: Susanna White

With its fall-in-the-muck jokes and running gag about a bird that belches, here's the second McPhee adventure, plonking the eponymous nanny (Thompson) into the English countryside of the early 1940s, where three farm children, their father away at war, are having problems integrating with their snooty city cousins, evacuated to share to their home.

Mother (Gyllenhaal, with a lovely, flawless English accent that never inhibits her performance) is at her wits' end in the midst of five fighting children, until the familiar, wart-covered figure of Nanny McPhee looms at the front door,

The brawling brats, alas, are all too quickly cowed by Nanny's magic stick, leaving the only plot thread to be mum's brother (a bummer of a role for Ifans) and his attempts to get her to sign over her half of the farm to cover his debts, especially when she thinks her husband (McGregor) has been killed.

With the help of the city boy's father (Fiennes), it's established that dad is still alive, leaving Nanny and her flying, hypercharged motor bike and sidecar to fly back to the farm, and stop mum signing it away. Oh yes, and there's an unexploded bomb.

The film, unfortunately, is more of a damp squib than big bang. Thompson has won an Oscar for her writing, so she must have had one hell of an off day to have penned this spineless sequel with its tired antics. And was the term 'synchronised swimming' really in common usage in 1942?

Meanwhile, those not in love with McGregor's work might unkindly suggest that this is his best perfomance - since he doesn't have a word to say.

David Quinlan

UK 2010. UK Distributor: Universal. Fujicolor.
106 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 20 Mar 2010