Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (‘Nanny McPhee Returns’)

FAMILY COMEDY; 1hr 49min

STARRING: Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Down on the farm: from left, Thompson and Gyllenhaal

Screenplay writer and star Emma Thompson’s take on Christianna Brand’s Nanny McPhee fairy-tales is like stepping inside a storybook. Which pans out as pretty cute, plus having played her with enigmatic panache in 2005, Thompson knows the planet’s plainest childminder inside out.


The Big Bang begins with Isabelle Green (Gyllenhaal) in a big bind, swamped by her three unruly children, their bratty citified cousins and the running of the rundown family farm while her husband is away fighting in World War II. Her coping prospects are grim to nil when up pops the magical nanny with the moles and the troubling front tooth. Her brief, as ever, is to teach the sprogs imperative lessons — and as ever, her homely mug miraculously rights itself as she goes.

The special effects are fun and kid-friendly — a pig does fly! — and director Susanna White bathes the dotty lot in glowy tones. It’s old-fashioned kids’ stuff with a melting soft spot, and the lumpen, secretive Miss McPhee (“Small c, big P”) is the miraculous glue that binds everyone in it together. Fancy that?