“Everybody stop shouting!” screams Maggie Gyllenhaal’s stressed World War 2 mum at the start of this whimsical modern-day Mary Poppins. If only.
Her five precocious charges seem to operate only at ‘shrill’ in this all-star romp about a magical child-tamer, Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson), who teaches niceness to warring cousins with parental anxieties.
Plus there’s plenty of sticky delights for the nippers with over-flowing treacle and poo jokes.
Thankfully, Gyllenhaal (sporting spot-on plummy twang) and Thompson offset moppet-overload with heartfelt performances that sneak up and sucker-punch adults, while Maggie Smith, Rhys Ifans and Bill Bailey have fun as OTT support.
Though cute, sweet and rammed with enchanted animals (the porcine synchronised-swimming is a highlight), McPhee falls a smidgeon short of the original’s charm with a plodding pace, and a final, frantic reel that outstays its welcome.
But like McPhee herself, it’s hard not to like this cinematic hug – warts and all.