Rather than using a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, this delightful tale about a mysterious English nanny (Thompson, who also wrote the screenplay) employs heaping helpings of tart humor. In Nanny McPhee, the fearsome-looking titular caregiver shows up one night at the rambunctious household of Mr. Brown (Firth), a widowed mortician with seven supremely bratty children. As the kids master each of Nanny McPhee's lessons in manners and kind behavior, the warts, unibrow and overbite marring Nanny's appearance magically disappear little by little.
Nanny is charming without pushing too hard. Thompson, Firth and Lansbury (who plays a rich meanie) seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. All enthusiastically partake in a climactic cake-throwing battle in which everyone ends up covered in frosting, a tasty way to end an already sweet treat. (PG)