You'll have a hard time finding any movie reviews of director Kirk Jones' Nanny McPhee that doesn't compare the story to Mary Poppins. But that doesn't mean the film is a cheap imitation.

Mainstream critics are generally positive about McPhee, especially praising Emma Thompson, who plays the magical, scowling, strict lead character from the beloved Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand. This super-nanny seems, at first, to be ugly and forbidding. But as she teaches the children and their father (Colin Firth) a thing or two, they begin to warm up to her, and audiences will too.

But what does it all mean? Christian film critics are giving mixed reviews.

Peter T. Chattaway (Christianity Today Movies) says, "It perfectly captures the dark humor and ominous authority of [the] books on which the film was based. But somewhere along the way, the film loses sight of this theme, and it becomes a movie about something else entirely, with disappointing results."

More specifically, he continues, "by the time the food fight gets under way, you are reminded less of Mary Poppins and more of the recent slapstick-happy remakes of Cheaper by the Dozen and Yours, Mine and Ours. (Bad behavior isn't always bad, it seems; this film wants to throw its cake and eat it too.) And it all comes to a climax in an ending pinched from Disney's Cinderella. There are many different kinds of children's movies, and this one tries to be all of them at once."

Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) says, "Cleavage, a worm sandwich, an amorous misunderstanding, and touches of crude language and slapstick violence push the age of Nanny McPhee's target audience higher than that of Mary Poppins'. But on the whole it's a fun, well-crafted, tender-hearted tale about getting a grip ...

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