Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang
Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

UK theatrical release poster
Directed by Susanna White
Produced by
Screenplay by Emma Thompson
Story by Christianna Brand (Books)
Starring Emma Thompson
Rhys Ifans
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Asa Butterfield
Ewan McGregor
Maggie Smith
Bill Bailey
Katy Brand
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Mike Eley
Editing by Sim Evan-Jones
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) March 26, 2010 (2010-03-26) (United Kingdom)
August 20, 2010 (2010-08-20) (North America)
Running time 109 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • United States
Language English
Budget $35 million[1]
Box office $93,251,121[2]

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (released in the United States and Canada as Nanny McPhee Returns) is a 2010 family film. It is a sequel to the 2005 film Nanny McPhee. It was adapted by Emma Thompson from Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda books.[3] Thompson reprises her role as Nanny McPhee, and the film also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ralph Fiennes, Rhys Ifans, Ewan McGregor, Maggie Smith, Asa Butterfield,[3] Bill Bailey and Katy Brand.



On a farm in Britain during World War II, Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is driven to her wits' end by her hectic life. Between trying to keep the family farm up and running and her job in the village shop, aided by the elderly and partly blind Mrs. Docherty (Maggie Smith), she also has three boisterous children to look after, Norman (Asa Butterfield), Megsie (Lil Woods) and Vincent (Oscar Steer). All of this she has to do while her husband is away at war. So when her children's two spoiled cousins, Cyril (Eros Vlahos) and Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson) Gray are sent to live on their farm and another war is being fought between the two sets of children, she is in need of a little magic. She hears a mysterious voice telling her that she needs Nanny McPhee and, to her astonishment, Nanny McPhee appears on her doorstep one stormy night.

Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives to take matters into her own hands. At first, the children do not listen and carry on fighting, but she calmly bangs her stick, causing them to start hurting themselves, and Vincent to break things with his cricket bat. Eventually, they apologize, and the two groups learn to tolerate each other. Nanny McPhee then teaches them another lesson and punishes them, to share, by forcing the older boys to share their bed with a goat, the girls with the family cow, and Vincent with a baby elephant, making them realize sharing with one another wasn't so bad and start acting kinder to one another. For instance, Megsie gives Celia some of her best clothing when the ones she brings are ruined, which had made her resort to wearing their mother's wedding dress. Meanwhile, Isabel's brother-in-law Uncle Phil (Rhys Ifans) has gambled away the farm and is being chased down by two hit women. He desperately attempts to make Isabel sell her half of the farm, using an array of schemes. These include digging a hole so that the family piglets can escape, but by working together, the children manage to round them up in time.

Mrs. Green takes all the children on a picnic during which an ARP Warden, Mr. Docherty (Sam Kelly), warns them all about bombs and how he imagines a pilot might accidentally release his bomb in the remote area in which the family lives. At the end of the picnic Uncle Phil delivers a telegram saying that Rory Green has been "killed in action" in the war. Isabel believes the telegram, along with everybody else. But Norman does not, and says that he has a feeling "in his bones" that his father is not dead. He tells this to Cyril, who at first says it is just because he is upset, but then agrees to help Norman determine the truth. They realise that Cyril's father, Lord Gray (Ralph Fiennes), a high-ranking figure in the War Office can find out for himself what has happened to Rory. So they manage to get Nanny McPhee to take them to London on her motorcycle. (For Pink Floyd fans: Note the Pig shaped barrage baloon above Battersea Power Station in the panoramic view as they arrive in London)

Upon arrival in London, Nanny McPhee uses her status in the army to get the boys access to the War Office, where they meet Lord Grey. At first he scoffs at Norman when he tells him about his disbelief of his father's death, but after Cyril angrily informs his father that he knows that his parents are getting a divorce, he gives in and goes to check on Rory's status. While he is gone, Cyril tells Norman that he and Celia have been sent away because their parents will be splitting up, and not because of the bombs, and he is unsure where he and Celia will have to live. Norman tells Cyril that he and Celia are welcome to live on the farm with the Greens, to his delight. Lord Grey returns and informs them that Rory is not listed as killed in action, as the telegram had stated, but missing in action, and that there is no record of a telegram ever having been sent to Isabel.

The boys then leave and Norman works out that the telegram brought to his mother by Uncle Phil was in fact a fraud to get Isabel to sell the farm. While the boys are at the War Office, Megsie, Celia and Vincent are trying to stop Isabel from signing the papers and selling the farm. When their own efforts fail, Megsie calls to Nanny McPhee for help, who hears her plea and summons a baby Elephant to stall for time. Just as Isabel is about to sign the papers, an enemy plane flies overhead. The pilot sneezes twice, and on the third sneeze, a huge bomb is dropped, but does not explode and is sticking out of the barley field. When Nanny McPhee returns with Norman and Cyril, thanks to the Nanny's magic, the children go out to watch Mr. Docherty dismantle the bomb, but he falls from the ladder and faints, and Megsie takes over. She succeeds with the help of the other children and Nanny McPhee's putty eating bird, Mr. Edelweiss. Nanny McPhee then helps to harvest the barley and saves Phil from the hit women, with a little magic, and she and Mrs. Docherty watch the family celebrate.

During their conversation, Mrs. Docherty says to Mr. Docherty that Nanny McPhee hates goodbyes and that she remembers from when she was young. She then takes out a rattle, revealing that she is baby Aggie from the first film. As Nanny McPhee walks away from the now happy family, true to her statement "When you need me, but do not want me, I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go", the children and Isabel chase after her, determined to prove they still need her. However, they discover that they in fact do not, as they round a bend to see that their father is descending from the hill, passing Nanny McPhee along the way. Rory Green (Ewan McGregor), in army uniform and with an injured arm, runs to the arms of his children and wife and rejoices in the discovery that after leaving three children to go to war, he has returned to find five. As Nanny McPhee watches the reunion, now a beautiful woman, she forgives Mr. Edelweiss and allows him to perch on her shoulder as they leave into the distance leading to another sequel.

Nanny McPhee's five lessons

In addition to emphasizing discipline, manners and accepting the consequences of one's actions, Nanny McPhee has five very important base lessons to teach — each of which correspond to her various unattractive physical attributes: gray hair, two large moles, a unibrow, and a snaggle-tooth protruding over her bottom lip, all of which give her the appearance of a stereotypical witch. Nanny is as ugly as the children are naughty, so whenever a lesson is learned, one of her disfigurements vanishes. When all five lessons are learned, Nanny McPhee transforms from ugly to beautiful.

  • Lesson #1: To stop fighting - Upper wart disappears
  • Lesson #2: To share - Lower wart disappear
  • Lesson #3: To work together - Unibrow disappears
  • Lesson #4: To be brave - Hair changes from gray to brown
  • Lesson #5: To have faith - Snaggle tooth disappears

Nanny McPhee's Medals

  • Courage
  • Kindness
  • Resolve
  • Imagination
  • Enthusiasm
  • Basketwork
  • Leap of Faith


  • Emma Thompson - Nanny McPhee
  • Rhys Ifans - Phil Green
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal - Mrs. Isabel Green. She receives Nanny McPhee's medal for Leaps of Faith.
  • Asa Butterfield - Norman Green. He receives Nanny McPhee's medal for Imagination.
  • Lil Woods - Megsie Green. She receives Nanny McPhee's medal for Resolve.
  • Oscar Steer - Vincent Green. He receives Nanny McPhee's medal for Courage.
  • Ewan McGregor - Mr. Rory Green
  • Eros Vlahos - Cyril Gray. He receives Nanny McPhee's medal for Enthusiasm.
  • Rosie Taylor-Ritson - Celia Gray. She receives Nanny McPhee's medal for Kindness.
  • Ralph Fiennes - Lord Gray
  • Maggie Smith - Mrs. Agatha "Aggie" Docherty
  • Sam Kelly - Mr. Docherty
  • Sinead Matthews - Miss Topsey
  • Katy Brand - Miss Turvey
  • Bill Bailey - Farmer MacReadie
  • Nonso Anozie - Sergeant Ralph Jeffreys
  • Daniel Mays - Blenkinsop
  • Ed Stoppard - Lieutenant Addis
  • Toby Sedgwick - Enemy plane pilot


Critical response for the film was positive with most reviews giving 4 out of 5 stars. The News of the World gave it 4/5 stars stating the film was "smart, witty and beautifully crafted - exactly what you want from a family film" and excited about the next film said "Roll on Nanny McThree".[4] The Independent gave a very favourable review stating "film is an ingenious entertainment machine fuelled by a profound understanding of what children enjoy, whether it's cowpats, talking welly boots or piglets doing synchronised swimming. Thompson has written a properly funny script, which is performed superbly by Ifans, Maggie Smith, Bill Bailey, Ralph Fiennes and some estimable child actors".[5] Eros Vlahos was nominated for Best Leading Young Actor at the Young Artist Awards 2011 against Noah Ringer for The Last Airbender, Zachary Gordon for Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Jaden Smith (winner) for The Karate Kid.

In contrast, many critics were appalled at the trivial nature in which World War II is depicted.

Box office

In the UK, the film opened at number one, with £2,586,760[6] outperforming fellow new release The Blind Side, grossing a total of £16,211,057. In the United States and Canada, it debuted in seventh position with a $8.4 million[7] take and a total gross of $29,011,215.

Home Media

The DVD and Blu-Ray versions were released in the UK on 19 June 2010. Nanny McPhee Returns (as has been renamed for North America) was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on May 6th, 2011.

The Book "Nurse Matilda"

The film is one of a wave of adaptations of the trilogy of Christianna Brand's books Nurse Matilda. The books almost are not connected with the film, but most of the moments are adaptations of the books. Emma Thompson started to write the script based on Brand`s books in the spring of 2007

Film locations

The village in the film is Hambleden in Buckinghamshire, the farm set and scenes were filmed in Hascombe, near Godalming in Surrey and the War Office scenes, both interior and exterior, were filmed at the University of London Senate House.[8]


A third film is being planned as Emma Thompson stated previously in an interview on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. Presently, rumors have circulated that the plot for the third installment may be set in modern day England. Emma Thompson, star and writer, has hinted that this may be a possibility.[9]


External links

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