The new film Nanny McPhee is another story in a seemingly inexhaustible wellspring of stories where a bunch of cute kids face tragic separation from their bumbling parents?#34;usually the father (mom’s dead)?#34;but the intercession of some third-party (often the nanny but sometimes a wardrobe, a sick sponsor or a distant relative) manages to avert this tragedy, and everyone lives happily ever after.
What is it about Victorian literature that puts the children in such peril? I suspect the rigid class system with little social mobility and the horrible conditions of the working poor influenced Dickens, C.S. Lewis and others to depict childhood as a unique caste system. Powerless to decide their own fates, little children are surely the lowest rung on the social ladder. Their lives are completely subject to the whim of adults?#34;when they get up, what they eat, when they play and when they go to bed are all decided by adults, usually without any input from them. But, I digress.
Nanny McPhee is the story of seven unruly children whose mother has died. They have run off 17 nannies with their wild and crazy antics and their poor dad (Colin Firth who somehow found work after Bridget Jones II) is at his wit’s end. Not only does he have to contend with his unruly brood, but he’s got to get married in a month or be disinherited by his rich Great Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury, who I thought was dead. You go, girl!).
Out of desperation, he hires the snaggle-toothed, wart-impaired Nanny McPhee who takes names and kicks juvenile booty with the help of a magic walking stick that emits sparks when it does its stuff. Ms. McPhee, well played by Emma Thompson, who wrote the screenplay, uses her magic walking stick to teach the lads and lasses some hard lessons and everything seems headed in the right direction.
However, there remains a problem for dad. Mr. Brown decides to give up his personal happiness to keep the dough coming in from Adelaide and thereby keeping the family together by marrying a horrible trollop, Mrs. Quickly. Why Nanny McPhee can’t use her magic stick to conjure up Keira Knightley as the new wife is not explained?#34;there’s only so much a magic stick can do. So it comes down to this: Mr. Brown may have to marry the old cow, Mrs. Quickly, or maybe the hot scullery maid who is only a few years older than Mr. Brown’s oldest son. (“Mr. Brown, you’ve got a lovely scullery maid.”) This one is considerably easier to figure out than Sixth Sense.
Nanny McPhee is a good movie if you like this kind of thing. Personally, I like it when the dad remarries; the cute kids learn some manners; and Nanny McPhee heads down the road to help another messed-up Victorian family. They should put this nanny business on TV.