Aug 16, 2010

[Movies] Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang (2010)

Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang (2010)I hate it when children's books talk down to kids and pander to stereotypes around what they can understand. Sure it's fun and all and probably somehow "safer", however doing so doens't really help children plus we totally ignore just how much they really understand.

And thus there's a part of me that has always been drawn to the, well, "stranger" children's stories that may seem somewhat disturbing but tend to be a lot smarter. Statistically speaking, it seems more of these kinds of stories tend to come from Britain (or stories that originate from British territories. Naturally the best example of this would be the highly fantastical Roald Dahl books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. He's always had a way with crafting stories that are delightful to children and remain rather humorous for older readers and eventually viewers.

So it's nice to see that people continue to treasure these stories and ensure the next generations are introduced to them. And sadly, movies and TV shows remain the best ways to do this as opposed to sticking to attempting to drum up book sales. Oh kids today.

Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang is the sequel to fairly successful 2005 movie based on the Nurse Matilda series of books. This second book wasn't directly based on one of the books though apart from the character as interpreted by Emma Thompson's screenplay.

The movie follows a new family, this being the Greens. It's wartime (although which war is not clear) and Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a busy mother trying to run a farm, manage a job in town and raise three kids while her husband is off fighting for the government. Things get even more complicated when the children Norman (Asa Butterfield), Megsie (Lil Woods) and Vincent (Oscar Steer) meet their spoiled, richer cousins Cyril (Eros Vlahos) and Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson), who need to stay with them in the country to avoid the dangers of bombing in London. The cousins immediately find themselves fighting one another over petty disagreements and Isabel is dumbfounded how to handle them.

Emma Thompson at the Nanny McPhee London premiereImage via WikipediaEnter the highly unattractive Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson), who arrives because she is clearly needed by this family despite Isabel's denials of such. Similar to the first movie, Nanny McPhee appears to possess magical abilities that are called through the use of her staff. Her goal is to teach the children five important lessons in order for them to become better, although the rules are different compared to the first movie. While all this is going on, Isabel is doing her best to hold on to the farm despite her brother-in-law Phil's (Rhys Ifans) efforts to convince her to sign papers selling off the farm given he had already lost it due to his gambling debts.

The movie felt like it had a bigger budget - or at least it was able to allocate more funds to the special effects. It was certainly filled with a lot of crazy elements like flying motorcycles and acrobatic pigs, as you can see in the theatrical posters. And this despite the fact that the movie featured a number of bigger name stars including Maggie Smith, Ewan McGregor and Ralph Fiennes. I guess it was one of those situations when friends got together to make a movie, especially with Emma Thompson involved in the core creative process.

Despite the movie being somewhat formulaic in terms of following the pattern of the first film, it still worked quite well. I guess it all boils down to the fact that it's a pretty good formula despite the fact it tends to involve torturing children with the use of magic and nearly intelligent animal behavior. But that's precisely what makes this movie so fun - plus the fact that English children always seem to be so much more eloquent and verbose than others. Then again, that's probably true, especially you compare them to children from other Western countries, hehe.

Did I like this one more than the first one? Maybe - it's really hard to say. I have to admit that my partner and I totally went nuts over the rather complicated pig sequence, but we tend to be campy that way. The first movie may have had a tighter story and a better focus on the rules. This one was just fun and certainly interesting in a variety of ways. The "big bang" at the end was certainly unexpected, definitely over the top but the kind of things that kids just go nuts over.

Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang was still a pretty nice movie for kids and adults alike and a nice example of how to keep a franchise going without the need for a Harry Potter budget. It gets 4 pigs swimming together in a synchronized manner out of 5.

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