Mr Brown (Colin Firth), an impoverished undertaker, is having a terrible time trying to get a nanny for his seven horribly behaved, motherless children. Desiring only the attention of their father, the children are determined to drive away all nannies. They have succeeded in getting rid of 17 when Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives on the scene. Using a form of magic or witchcraft, she is able to gain control where others have failed, and slowly begins to restore order to the household.
Unfortunately, great aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury) sees the outrageous behaviour of the children and issues an ultimatum. She says that she will stop giving the family an allowance (which they depend on) unless Mr Brown remarries within the month. If they refuse, the family will lose everything, including each other, and Mr Brown would have to marry the trampish widow Mrs Quickly (Celia Imrie).
Reverting to the same means they used to drive away the nannies, the children set themselves the task of getting rid of Mrs Quickly, regardless of the consequences. At the same time, they try to find a suitable replacement.
- The very first scene shows a wild-eyed woman running away from a house screaming, ‘They’ve eaten the baby!’ Children are then shown eating what appear to be chicken drumsticks with baby booties on them. The baby is found lying in a pot of cooked vegetables.
- One child hits the cook over the head with a heavy frying pan.
- The children tie up and gag the cook and nearly blow her up with homemade explosives.
- One child is about to catapult the baby into a pot of boiling water and is stopped by Nanny McPhee just in the nick of time.
- Mr Brown kicks one of the children away from a chair.
- The children place a sharp arrow on a cushion that Mrs Quickly is about to sit on. Mr Brown takes it away before she does.
- Mrs Quickly maliciously breaks the baby’s rattle, which is the only thing that the children have as a reminder of their mother.
Content that may disturb children
- When Nanny McPhee mysteriously arrives at the Brown residence it is a dark and stormy night. Both Mr Brown and the maid are very apprehensive about opening the door.
- The first impressions of Nanny McPhee are quite alarming.
- Aunt Adelaide decides to take one of the children away to live with her. Mr Brown thinks that she has taken Chrissie, his second youngest, and is in a devastated panic as he chases after the carriage trying to get her back. There are an intense couple of moments before he and Chrissie are reunited and he realises that all of his children are safe and sound and that his aunt has accidentally taken the young scullery maid instead.
- One of the children makes a trip up to Nanny McPhee’s room to ask for help and must pass through a creepy, long corridor full of spooky shadows and eerie noises. There is no answer when he knocks on the door. Moments later the door opens by itself to reveal the strangeness of her room. The suspense of this scene could disturb some young children.
- The scenes where witchcraft is used could confuse and distress young viewers.
Some younger children in this age group could be concerned by some of the scenes described above.
There is nothing in this movie that would frighten children over the age of 13.
The main sexual references in this movie are made by Mrs Quickly who talks about her ‘passions’ in relation to men. She also refers to the ‘passions’ she believes Mr Brown must have in relation to women.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Mrs Quickly and her friend often drink wine.
Nudity and sexual activity
There is no outright nudity in this movie, although Mrs Quickly wears very low-cut dresses and takes every opportunity to draw Mr Brown's attention to her breasts. There are several scenes in which Mr Brown has to throw himself at Mrs Quickly in order to save her from his children’s pranks. As a result, he often winds up lying on top of her or with his face in her bosom. This only further ignites Mrs Quickly’s passions.
Although this movie contains no coarse language, it does include some mild name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Based on the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand, Nanny McPhee is like a very dark version of Mary Poppins. While not particularly suited to young children, this is a movie that both adults and older children will enjoy.
The movie raises the issue of the deceptive nature of first impressions and appearances. It suggests that those who appear to be hideous might be beautiful inside, and that those who seem uneducated might, in fact, have the most to offer. You could examine these values with your child, and talk about what your family values. Another topic you could talk about is why it is important to have rules and accept responsibility for your own actions.