Nanny McPhee

Emma Thompson stars as the magical Nanny McPhee<i>.</i>

Emma Thompson stars as the magical Nanny McPhee.

Rated 3.0

In a storybook version of Edwardian England, a widowed undertaker (Colin Firth) hires a new nanny (Emma Thompson) for his kids, seven horrible brats who have driven off 17 nannies before her. Despite the quaint setting, Thompson’s script (from Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda stories) is Mary Poppins for modern tempers—coarse, unsubtle and overdone, with fart jokes. Kirk Jones’ disorderly direction, Michael Howells’ garish design and Henry Braham’s unflattering cinematography are among the movie’s many drawbacks. Its redeeming virtues are Thompson, Firth and Kelly Macdonald as Firth’s adoring housemaid; they manage to give genuine, affecting performances in the midst of all the outlandish, obnoxious goings-on. Angela Lansbury maintains her dignity—but just barely—as a hatched-faced aunt.