Nanny McPhee Directed by Kirk Jones Universal, opens January 27
Emma Thompson's first screenwriting effort since the Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility is another literary adaptation, allegedly of Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda books. But honestly: a Victorian setting, ill-behaved children, a distant father, and a magical nanny? It's Mary Poppins, if there were seven children instead of two and all were evil geniuses. Fortunately, this nanny isn't above using her powers for retribution, humorously making the punishments fit the crimes for the willful children. The child actors in question are appealing, although someone had the bad sense to CGI moving lips onto the baby. As the titular character, Thompson is amusingly dour, and Colin Firth, as the distracted father, is less wooden than usual. If you have someone under 10 to take to the movies, this one is charming and painless. Plus, you get the perverse delight of seeing such dignified thespians as Derek Jacobi, Imelda Staunton, and Angela Lansbury involved in a food fight.