Movies: Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang * * *
(G, general release)
In the first Nanny McPhee film, loosely adapted by Emma Thompson from a series of children's stories by Christianna Brand, a fearsome-looking nanny appeared from nowhere to transform the lives of a lonely widower and his seven unruly nippers.
Despite the storyline's suspicious resemblance to Mary Poppins, Ms Thompson's breezy screenplay and her nicely idiosyncratic portrayal of the central character made it an enjoyable and charming children's tale, and this sequel boasts more of the same.
It's the middle of World War Two, and Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as the cheerful but put-upon mother of three children whose beloved husband is fighting on the Continent. She's up against it financially, and her scheming brother-in-law Phil (Rhys Ifans) is trying to swindle her into selling the beloved family farm.
She also has to contend with a coddled niece and nephew who have descended on her from the big city and are horrified, as they put it, to have arrived in "the land of poo".
The poor woman is at her wit's end until Nanny McPhee turns up, bulbous nose, warts, snaggle tooth and all. She is soon knocking some sense into all concerned.
A fine supporting cast includes Ralph Fiennes and Maggie Smith, but this is Thompson's show and she reprises her role with aplomb. There are plenty of decent jokes along the way, and a refreshingly old-fashioned wholesomeness that recalls films such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.