'Nanny McPhee Returns': The Reviews Are In!

Emma Thompson's sequel charms many critics, but it's way too saccharine for others.

This weekend is set to be a crowded one at the cinema, as five new flicks receive the wide-release treatment. None of them -- from "Piranha 3D" to "Vampires Suck" -- are likely to come out on top at the box office, as "The Expendables" looks to commandeer the top spot for a second straight week.

Of all the fresh faces, though, [article id="1646144"]Emma Thompson[/article] might well perform the best, as "Nanny McPhee Returns," which the 51-year-old Brit both wrote and stars in, arrives on U.S. shores more than four years after the original film. The latest installment has already grossed $62.6 million overseas.

How will it fair domestically? Reviews are largely positive, though it remains to be seen if "Nanny McPhee" can overtake the "Twilight" parody, "Vampires Suck," or the Bow Wow-starring "Lottery Ticket." Here's what the critics have to say.

The Story

"Nanny McPhee is dispatched to help a family in desperate need of order. Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) lives with her three children on a rundown family farm in the countryside. Her husband, Rory, is fighting overseas, and poor Isabel must cope with a shiftless brother-in-law (Rhys Ifans) determined to make her sell the farm, a part-time job with a comically absent-minded shopkeeper (Maggie Smith) and the arrival of two more children: posh cousins Cyril (Eros Vlahos) and Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson), sent from London for safety but creating havoc as soon as they arrive." -- Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

The Performances

"Vlahos and Asa Butterfield, as Isabel's eldest boy, have the movie's most effective scene, in which they confront Ralph Fiennes, playing Vlahos' stiff military dad, during the boys' quick trip to London to learn the fate of Butterfield's father. ... Other roles call for too much mugging. This would include Maggie Smith's turn as a forgetful old shopkeeper and Sam Kelly as an aging air-raid warden. The film suffers slightly from a curious sort of ageism, where the older you get the more 'comic' you become. In the title role, Thompson wisely lets her makeup artist do much of the initial work -- the moles and hair do start to disappear as the children learn her lessons, leaving her more or less recognizable by movie's end. Meanwhile, she uses her commanding voice to bring the movie's energy to her character while standing aside to give the child protagonists plenty of room to romp." -- Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter

The Jokes

"The movie's one other concession to modernity, besides the computer graphics, is the relentless poo-poo and flatulence jokes that have been inserted, ostensibly to make 11-year-olds scream with delight. Maggie Smith -- that is, Dame Maggie Smith -- playing a demented shopkeeper, plops down on a wet cow patty and announces that her seat is quite comfy. At another point, the movie leaves you with the impression that Nanny has apologized for flatulence. In retrospect, it's actually remarkable that Julie Andrews got through all 139 minutes of 'Mary Poppins' without ever passing wind." -- Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

The Dissenters

"In the disappointing sequel from Thompson and director Susanna White (the BBC's 'Bleak House'), we get a gentler, more wink-inclined Nanny McPhee, not to mention kids whose rambunctiousness seems manufactured rather than entertainingly exaggerated. ... The movie needn't be so busy, or so sweet. ... [The] plot demands and a general push for saccharinity have [McPhee] taking to the air on the bike, and being saluted by the Queen's Guard, and cheerily rocketing down a country byway. So much for skipping the spoonful of sugar." -- Tom Russo, Boston Globe

The Final Word

"This sequel to 2006's 'Nanny McPhee' is almost as charming as the first. There are problems, though, in its tone, segueing awkwardly from escapism to gritty reality. Some of that is mitigated by the endearing performances and the way the story imbues its young characters with intelligence, motivation and depth, qualities often lacking for children in family films." -- Claudia Puig, USA Today

Check out everything we've got on "Nanny McPhee."

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