The first 'Nanny McPhee' movie was built on a sense of whimsy that carried on throughout the film. Its whimsical nature made it fun to follow along with the story of the mysterious nanny (Emma Thompson) who appears out of nowhere to help parents with unruly children. She carries a long walking stick, apparently full of magical powers that can turn once annoying young brats into well behaved children. She teaches them a series of lessons, and then she goes on her way to help the next group of rambunctious miscreants.
In 'Nanny McPhee Returns,' the famous uni-brow, mole-faced nanny is back to help another family that's in great need of it. Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has had it up to here with her kids. She's playing the role of single mother as her husband is away fighting in the World War. She lives out in the country with her three kids who do nothing but cause trouble. Although, it seems that they aren't as bad as the batch of kids from the first film, but nevertheless they run amok. To make matters worse, their rich cousins are coming to stay on the farm in order to be far away from London and the bombings. Once the cousins arrive it's back to the same old formula as the first film. Things quickly spiral out of control, Nanny McPhee shows up out of thin air, and eventually rights the ship.
The first 'Nanny McPhee' had its share of corny moments, including a ridiculous part where a donkey stands up on its hind legs and acts like a person. Those moment were few and far between though. Here, the corny moments have been piled, one on top of the other. What is it about sequels that makes filmmakers think that they need to outdo everything from the previous movie?
'Nanny McPhee Returns' is an odd duck. It works on its own merits when its being sweet, sincere, and funny. It stumbles and falls, however, when it resorts to asinine sequences of synchronized swimming pigs and a burp so large it literally harvests an entire field of barley. Which brings us to another point about kids movie sequels. Without fail, it seems that the sequel to a kids movie must contain at the very least three times as many potty humor jokes than the first movie. So, 'Nanny McPhee Returns' is full of fart, burp, and poop jokes. The younger kids may laugh over and over at the flatulence on display, but it's hard to love the movie's tender moments when so much time is spent on trying to squeeze in (or is it out?) one more fart.
Like the first film, 'Nanny McPhee Returns' plays on the emotions quite well. We're sympathetic to the characters, and its interesting to see what Nanny McPhee will do next. Sadly, this sequel dives too far into the unfunny potty humor and relies too much on overdone CG sequences. The first one is easy enough to love, this one requires some work on the viewer's part and that's a shame. I'm not even sure that Nanny McPhee herself could clean up this mess.
Like the first movie, 'Nanny McPhee Returns' features a bright, colorful palette filled to the brim with vibrant primary colors. With its VC-1 encoded transfer from Universal, 'Nanny McPhee Returns' looks just as good as its predecessor. It's true that the family in this one doesn't live in such oddly colored surroundings like in the first movie, but the colors here play a big part in the storytelling. The greens of the English countryside are lush and deep. The blacks add cavernous depth to the overall effect of the picture. The dark browns of the mud look realistically muddy – exactly how they should look. Shadow delineation is as close to perfect as you can get, with no crushing black shadows in sight. Fine detail is top-notch, as fabrics and textures stand out the most. You can see each and every thread in the character's clothes during their closeups. Facial detail fares well too as it reveals pores, lines, and wrinkles.
Sadly though, 'Nanny McPhee Returns,' like so many Blu-ray release I've covered in the past, falls victim to an overuse of subpar CG animated sequences. The swimming pigs look especially awful. There is some apparent aliasing on the fly-over shots of the country cottage where the family lives. Other than the few instances of aliasing I didn't see any other digital follies to report.
For some reason I'm never prepared for the awesomeness that is a 'Nanny McPhee' soundtrack. Seriously, the first one caught me off guard with how well it was done and so did this one. For some reason I never suspect a kid-centric movie to pack such a fiery punch when it comes to the audio presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that has been prepared for this Blu-ray is something else.
All of the dialogue, no matter how low or whispered, is perfectly intelligible through the center channel. The entire soundfield is alive with ambient sound and the rears are constantly engaged with the surrounding action. Panning effects work to perfection, with directionality playing a huge role in helping to place voices and action in their appropriate channels. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this audio presentation is the loud, rumbling LFE-rich BOOM! that reverberates through the entire sound stage as Nanny McPhee pounds her magical walking stick. The deep resonant bass produced is good as any action movie you've ever watched on the format. All together this is one of the best sounding kids movies out there. Not that the kiddies will care much, but at least there's something there for you parents to enjoy as well.
When it's being sweet and charming, 'Nanny McPhee Returns' excels. When it stoops to poop and fart jokes, the movie crashes and burns. There's more sweetness than farts, but in the end the lame crudeness grow tiresome nonetheless. I still enjoyed the movie. It's a light-hearted romp, with great acting from the two leads. The audio is near-perfection and the video isn't too far behind. There's a good smattering of extras, but most of them seem awfully promotional instead of informational. 'Nanny McPhee Returns' gets a light recommendation for this reviewer. There certainly are worse films out there your kids could be watching.