Nanny McPhee Returns

Esther Williams, eat your heart out! Synchronized swimming...by PIGS! That's just one of the silly scenes in this latest script by Emma Thompson ("Sense and Sensibility"). Once again, she was inspired by the characters in Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda stories.

This time Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Crazy Heart") is the overwhelmed parent; her husband, played by Ewan McGregor ("The Ghost Writer") is away fighting WWII. Their three children are hardworking farm kids, but they must make a payment on the tractor before it is repossessed and unavailable for the grain harvest. To that end, they are raising piglets to sell. Problem is, their dastardly uncle, played by Rhys Ifans ("Vanity Fair"), wants to sell the farm, in which he holds half ownership. Mom is desperately trying to hold a part-time job working for Maggie Smith ("Harry Potter"), who is as dotty as they come.

Enter two cousins, a pair of priggish, overindulged twits, sent to the countryside to avoid the London Blitz. Naturally this culture clash results in chaos, which prompts our eponymous heroine to arrive on their doorstep. Emma Thompson ("An Education") has played this role before, so we know those children will promptly start learning her lessons, one by one, and we can hardly wait to see her creative methods.

Ralph Fiennes ("In Bruges") does a fine job in a small but pivotal role as the father of the London cousins. He works in the War Office and is NOT the warmest parent....In fact, his son is honored to get a handshake!

The children are cute and well directed, the animatronics are NOT overdone, the villain gets his comeuppance and the children in the audience giggled at the poop jokes (it IS a FARM, after all!). Oh, and Gyllenhaal sports a pretty serviceable British accent!