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"When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go."
Cedric Brown is a hard-working widower who can't spend much time with his seven children, so he leaves them in the care of nannies. However, the children are very naughty and have managed, with pride, to scare the past seventeen nannies away. Running out of options, Mr. Brown listens to a mysterious voice's advice to call for a "Nanny McPhee." Nanny McPhee turns out to be a hag-like woman with a crooked cane and a habit of appearing out of nowhere. But there's a secret to her care-taking — she has magic powers, which she uses to teach the children some important lessons.
Naughty children aren't the only problems Mr. Brown has to face. The truth is his late wife's aunt, Lady Adelaide Stitch, is supporting the family through a regular allowance, and she decides that unless Mr. Brown remarries by the end of the month, she will cut off those funds, meaning he will lose his house and his children. It's up to Nanny McPhee to help save a family on the brink of ruin.
The 2005 movie did well in theaters, and a sequel, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (called Nanny McPhee Returns in the United States), premiered in 2010. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a beleaguered housewife juggling a farm and three children, while awaiting her husband's return from The War. With the added pressure of her brother-in-law wanting her to sell off the farm (to pay off his own gambling debts), and two upper-class cousins staying over, Nanny McPhee is needed once again. The trailer can be seen here.
A third film is in preproduction as of 2014, with an anticipated release date in 2015.
- Badass: Nanny McPhee, to a point. This is a woman who rides in flying motorcycles, maintains order with a magic stick, and receives full attention and salutes from trained army soldiers...and Nelson's Column!
- Badass Normal: Celia Gray. She can scream for over a half-an-hour and suffer no vocal problems.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Played with.
- Beauty Inversion: spun into a plot point for Nanny McPhee. Every time the children learn something, one of her many hideous blemishes disappear. By the time her job is done, she's a completely unblemished Emma Thompson. Essentially, she's as ugly on the outside as they are on the inside.
- Be Careful What You Say: see Playing Sick below.
- In the sequel, the farm kids refuse to share their beds with the city kids, claiming they'd rather share their beds with the farm's goat and cow. Then the smallest farm kid blurts out "elephant" as his choice, leading up to Nanny McPhee trying to hide a literal Elephant in the Living Room.
- Berserk Button: in the sequel. One of the city kids deliberately takes a jar of jam the farm kids were saving for their Disappeared Dad. And it breaks. They go justifiably postal.
- Blitz Evacuees: The cousins from London. Though that wasn't the only reason...
- Brick Joke: The baby elephant in the sequel.
- But Now I Must Go: The page quote.
- Captain Ersatz: Nanny McPhee herself, for wikipedia:Nurse Matilda. To be honest, though, Nanny McPhee started as a faithful adaptation of Nurse Matilda; the character and movie were renamed to avoid confusion with Danny Devito's film Matilda. However, the sequel moved very firmly into "Suggested By" territory.
- Chekhov's Skill: From a bird of all things (in the sequel).
- Played straight in the first film, where it's mentioned that Mr. Brown and Simon used to play cricket together.
- Cloudcuckoolanders: Mr. Brown's partners at the funeral agency — Mr. Wheen and Mr. Jowls.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: in the sequel, Mrs. Dottie, the loopy candy store owner played by Maggie Smith, happens to know all about Nanny McPhee.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment
- Continuity Nod: In the sequel, Mrs. Dottie was the youngest Brown child from the previous movie.
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: The chef, specifically when she makes her 'army broth'.
- Denied Food as Punishment: Mr. Brown tries this on the children, but it doesn't work.
- Disappeared Dad: the premise of the sequel.
- Eek! a Mouse!: Faked by Celia in the sequel to keep her aunt from signing Phil's contract to sell the farm.
- Expy: Nanny McPhee is Mary Poppins. Only more interesting.
- Fake Brit: Maggie Gyllenhall proudly takes her place on the list of "American actors who can actually do a convincing English accent".
- Food Fight: Two — one near the beginning with chaos, catapults and near-explosions, and one at the wedding at the end, including wedding cake being thrown. Not to mention the one who kicks it all off is a priest toward the bride — accidentally, but still.
- Foreshadowing: In the sequel, a British Royal Guard turns out to be one of Nanny McPhee's children from the past. So was Mrs. Dottie — maiden name Brown.
- Gasshole: A crow's habit of eating putty turns it into one. Consistently.
- Inexplicably Awesome
- Leap of Faith: In the sequel film, one of Nanny McPhee's medals is for Leaps of Faith and, at the end of the film, she awards it to the mother.
- Magical Nanny: Obviously.
- Meaningful Name: Mr. Wheen and Mr. Jowls — their presence will certainly make you whine and yowl.
- Missing Mom
- Missing Trailer Scene: Some of the trailers for the sequel film included quite a bit of material that didn't make into the final cut of the film, though some of it was included in deleted scenes.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the sequel, the girls have to prevent Isabel from signing the deed to the farm, and the country girl successfully filches the uncle's pen. When the uncle finds three more in a drawer, Nanny McPhee intervenes by bringing back the baby elephant to snatch the three pens without him knowing. And then he finds the first pen on the country girl...
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Implied. Nanny McPhee asks Norman to not lose her stick as the paperwork to replace it is unbelievable.
- Phrase Catcher: "I did knock." Although it is more like a borrowed (by Simon) Catch Phrase.
- Pie in the Face: Or wedding cake in the face, actually.
- Playing Sick: The children try this on Nanny McPhee, but she doesn't buy it for a second. And she punishes them for it by making them sick for real and physically unable to get out of their beds. Ouch!
- They also Played Attacked-By-Bees at the wedding. It worked.
- Revisited in the sequel, involving a "mouse".
- Rags to Riches: Evangeline, who gets taken in by Aunt Adelaide in place of one of the children.
- Really 700 Years Old: If the fact that she's the same in both movies despite a possible time difference of 60 years is any indication.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Evangeline.
- Spot of Tea
- The Stinger: At the end of the sequel, the elephant gets to enjoy the Scratch-o-Matic machine that was designed for the pigs.
- Suggested By: The wikipedia:Nurse Matilda books. The first movie is a reasonable adaptation of the first book, but the second film only barely acknowledges the source material.
- Time Bomb: Of a sort, in the sequel.
- Title Drop: in the sequel, a war veteran warns Maggie Gyllenhaal and family of the threat of bombings, calling it 'the Big Bang'.
- Trickster Mentor
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Selma Quickly. Amusingly she says 'There are going to be changes around here.', a line made famous by Imelda Staunton as Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter's own Tyrant Takes the Helm story arc while Imelda Staunton herself is playing the cook in this film. (And Emma Thompson's character, Professor Trelawney, was a victim of those changes.)
- Unusual Euphemism: "LORD LOVE A DUCK!", said by the priest after the first slice of wedding cake is thrown.
- Why Waste a Wedding?
- Wicked Stepmother: Averted by Evangeline having a good stepmother. Played straight in that Selma Quidgly would have been a rotten stepmother — had she actually married Mr. Brown. Subverted by the sweet Evangeline actually being the one becoming the kids' stepmother — much to everyone's joy.
- Wire Dilemma: In the sequel film.
- The Woman in Black: Nanny makes several comments which broadly hint that she is an employee of some secret part of the British Government — in her role as a Magical Nanny.
- World War II: The period in which the second film is set.
- X Meets Y: Mary Poppins But Darker and Edgier and with MORE OBVIOUS MAGIC!