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Film / Nanny McPhee

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She will make you behave.
Click here  for the second film's poster.

"When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go."
Nanny McPhee

Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) is a hard-working widower who can't spend much time with his seven children, so he leaves them in the care of nannies. However, the children are very naughty and have managed, with pride, to scare the past seventeen nannies away. Running out of options, Mr. Brown listens to a mysterious voice's advice to call for a "Nanny McPhee". Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) turns out to be a hag-like woman with a crooked cane and a habit of appearing out of nowhere (though she does mention she did knock). But there's a secret to her care-taking — she has magic powers, which she uses to teach the children some important lessons.

Naughty children aren't the only problems Mr. Brown has to face. The truth is his late wife's aunt, Lady Adelaide Stitch, is supporting the family through a regular allowance, and she decides that unless Mr. Brown remarries by the end of the month, she will cut off those funds, meaning he will lose his house and his children. It's up to Nanny McPhee to help save a family on the brink of ruin.


The 2005 movie did well in theaters, and a sequel, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (called Nanny McPhee Returns in the United States for undisclosed reasons), premiered in 2010. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a beleaguered housewife juggling a farm and three children, while awaiting her husband's return from the war. With the added pressure of her brother-in-law wanting her to sell off the farm (to pay off his own gambling debts), and two upper-class cousins staying over, Nanny McPhee is needed once again. The trailer can be seen here.


Nanny McPhee provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Pervert: When Mrs. Quickly has tea with Cedric, the kids have laced the room with nasty pranks and Cedric spends the whole tea trying to block or hide them to prevent Mrs. Quickly from noticing. Due to this, he ends up tackling and embracing her in a variety of ways, causing her to think he's being driven mad with lust until she can't take it anymore. She even remarks when the children come to apologize that this perceieved lust explains why there are so many of them.
  • Adapted Out: In the original Nurse Matilda books, there are even more children in the Brown family. In the film, there are only seven.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The main character Nanny McPhee was originally named Nurse Matilda. Emma Thompson said this was changed for a couple of reasons. For one, the term "Nurse" is no longer associated with "nanny", and only calls medical staff to mind. As for "Matilda", they didn't want to use it since it was likely to remind people of Roald Dahl's book.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Nanny McPhee was based on a series of books called Nurse Matilda.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Evangeline is young enough to be passed off as Cedric's daughter (though, admittedly, towards Aunt Adelaide, who's both short-sighted and not particularly attentive towards Cedric and his children as individuals). Even early in the movie, when Cedric is mostly caught up in his own head, it's made pretty clear that he and Evangeline have taken a shine to each other.
  • The Ageless: Mrs. Docherty, the elderly lady in the second movie, was Baby Aggie in the first movie. Yet Nanny McPhee still looks the exact same.
  • Arc Words: "He took her lovingly by the hand" from Pride and Prejudice.
  • Baby See, Baby Do: When Mrs. Quickly tells the children to behave, Aggie repeats it but says, "Beehive!" which inspires the kids, to pretend bees are attacking. Nanny McPhee gives their act a magical push and the pretend bees start to agitate the other guests.
  • Babysitter's Nightmare: The seven Brown children are such terrors that they take pride in having scared away 17 different nannies.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Played with. It's more like "goodness equals beauty", as Nanny McPhee grows progressively beautiful as the families she cares for become better people. She initially starts out as a Creepy Good herself and her transformation is reflective of the family's, as she loses first a hunch, then a snaggle tooth and finally a mole.
  • Beauty Inversion: Spun into a plot point for Nanny McPhee. Every time the children learn something, one of her many hideous blemishes disappear. By the time her job is done, she's a completely unblemished Emma Thompson. Essentially, she's as ugly on the outside as they are on the inside.
  • Be Careful What You Say: Happens in both movies:
    • When the kids are Playing Sick, Nanny McPhee makes it real.
    • In the sequel, the farm kids refuse to share their beds with the city kids, claiming they'd rather share their beds with the farm's goat and cow. Then the smallest farm kid blurts out "elephant" as his choice, leading up to Nanny McPhee trying (and succeeding) to hide a literal Elephant in the Living Room.
  • Big Brother Instinct: As rotten as the Brown children can be, they do care about each other. For example, when Aggie's rattle is snatched away, one of her sisters comforts her and Simon demands that Selma give it back. Also, during the kitchen scene, the other children are worried about Aggie being flung into a pot of boiling water if Simon doesn't apologize to break Nanny McPhee's spell (which makes them unable to stop making the chaos they've created) quickly enough.
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: One of Nanny McPhee's unflattering features.
  • Black Cloak: One of these helps to intensify Nanny McPhee's spooky vibe, to the point where, in each film, we do not see her arms at all until she pulls out her magic walking stick for the first time.
  • Blatant Lies: Nanny McPhee claims to be a "government nanny" to distance herself from any agency that Cedric might be compelled to look into, though her witchy vibes make this claim clearly flimsy.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: After several instances where Nanny McPhee justifies her mysterious entrances with "I did knock", Simon finds himself saying the same to justify himself when he enters her room and she appears in it out of nowhere.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: In both films, with Simon and Celia starting as the worst in each.
  • Brick Joke: The baby elephant in the sequel. And a surprising number of people already know Nanny McPhee, including Mrs. Docherty.
  • But Now I Must Go: As Nanny McPhee says about herself:
    "When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go."
  • Calling Your Nausea: When Nanny McPhee's stick makes the children unable to stop what they're doing, one girl remarks, "I'm going to be sick!" She never throws up, though.
  • Canon Foreigner: Selma Quickly did not originate from the Nurse Matilda books.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Simon laments that his father never plays cricket with him anymore early in the film. At the wedding, when a cake food fight is started, Cedric takes up a violin by the neck and invites Simon to toss him some cake for batting practice.
  • Cloudcuckoolanders: Mr. Brown's partners at the funeral agency — Mr. Wheen and Mr. Jowls.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Nanny McPhee's preferred method of punishment. Play sick? She will make it real. Won't stop fighting? She will make you beat yourselves up.
  • Copycat Mockery: When sabotaging the wedding, two of the kids put on wigs that resemble Mrs. Quickly's hair and copy her line about calling them "small things" from earlier. She takes this as well as you'd expect.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Cook, specifically when she makes her "army broth" in the first movie. She is delighted to make it instead of some of the richer fare she usually has to cook, and believes children won't get anywhere eating fancy food.
    • In her defense, this is apparently not the first time the children have feigned illness in order to obtain "jellies and ice cream, raspberry cordial and God knows what else."
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Half of the madness that the Brown children cause in the first film probably wouldn't have happened if Cedric had just been honest with them about their financial troubles, as the children didn't realize he had to marry to continue receiving money from Great-Aunt Adelaide, and sabotaged a tea with Mrs. Quickly, his awful potential bride, to drive her away. Once they learn from Cedric what they've really done, they return to Mrs. Quickly to apologize so she'll come back and marry their father. In fairness to them, however, she really is as horrible as they first believed.
  • Crush the Keepsake: Mrs Quickly snaps Aggie's rattle, which belonged to the children's late mother, in two. Nanny McPhee makes sure to return it, repaired, as she departs at the end.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Nanny McPhee wears dark clothes and may be a frightening woman with unsettling uses of magic, but said approach is always effective and she shows a true caring for the issues close to the families' hearts.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the original book, Mrs. Brown was alive and well. She's dead prior to the events of the film version, and this was to give the plot a main driving point as Mr. Brown is forced to be remarried.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Mr. Brown tries this on the children, but they retaliate by sneaking into the kitchen and taking the cook hostage.
  • Disappeared Dad: The Green family in the sequel is missing the father, who is away at war and out of contact with them.
  • Empty Chair Memorial: The late Mrs. Brown’s chair is left untouched by Cedric. Twice throughout the movie, Nanny McPhee bows to the chair respectfully.
  • Evil-Detecting Baby: At the mention of Great-Aunt Adelaide, baby Aggie immediately starts wailing.
  • Exact Words: Great-Aunt Adelaide sends Mr. Brown a telegram that reads, "I am coming with the express intention of easing your financial burden." This does not mean what Mr. Brown thinks.
    • Then Simon does it on the day she comes for tea. "We've been told to put our best clothes on, right? Well, I'm putting my best clothes on...the pig."
    • And then in the climax, Adelaide herself is the target. She gave her word that if Mr. Brown remarried before the end of the month, she'd keep supporting his family, and she takes pride in never breaking her word. She failed, however, to define an acceptable wife.
  • Expy: Nanny McPhee is Mary Poppins.
  • Food Fight: Two — one near the beginning with chaos, catapults and near-explosions, and one at the wedding at the end, including wedding cake being thrown. Not to mention the one who kicks it all off is a priest toward the bride — accidentally, but still.
  • Freudian Excuse: Mrs. Quickly implies that the reason why the Brown kids are so rambunctious is because of their motherless state.
  • Full-Name Basis: We're given no alternative address for Nanny McPhee herself, and nobody refers to her as any less than her full title. An army recruit and former 'patient' of hers in the second film refers to her as "ma'am," but only after providing the complete title first.
  • Good Stepmother: Evangeline settles fights between the children, tries to help them, and figures out why they're acting out. Their father, Cedric Brown, hasn't paid attention to them since their mother died, but they don't want a stepmother because of fairy tales. By the end of the movie, Cedric and Evangeline marry.
  • Head Desk: Cedric does this as his kids raise a ruckus while he's trying to write an apology letter to Nanny Whetstone.
    "Dear Nanny Whetstone, I'm so very sorry. My children..."
    [the children are heard shouting and quarreling upstairs]
    My children.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A non-death example. Evangeline pretends to be one of Cedric's daughters and allows Aunt Adelaide to take her, so that none of his actual children have to go.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: The prank that the Brown children intended to put their great-aunt off adopting one of them - dressing up the donkey - goes wrong and causes Chrissie to run right into Aunt Adelaide... who up to that point had decided not to adopt one of the girls after all and was about to leave.
  • I Never Told You My Name: One of Nanny McPhee's oddities is that it seems she never needs to be told someone's name. In the first film, the kids try to mess with her by introducing themselves with silly and rude names, and not only does she show no sign of surprise or offense, once she turns around to leave the room she bids them all goodnight by their real names. They're duly unsettled.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: We don't know where Nanny McPhee got her powers from.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: "Great-Aunt Adelaide Stitch was a terrible old person…" however, she does want what she believes is best for her family—through disagreeable means.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Adelaide isn’t a pleasant woman, she is right in that the Brown children were uncontrollable prior to Nanny McPhee’s arrival. They were not an utterly lost cause, however, as she seemed to believe.
  • Kids Play Match Breaker: After being told he must remarry or lose his allowance from Aunt Adelaide, Cedric invites Mrs. Quickly for tea, intending to propose. The kids try to sabotage the date by putting toads and tadpoles in the pot and cups, trying to dump Jello on her head, and flinging mashed potatoes at her. It kind of works—while none of the tricks go through or touch Mrs. Quickly, Cedric’s attempts to rescue her give her the wrong message about his intentions.
  • Kids Play Matchmaker: A sub-plot involves the kids' father being single and his snobby aunt-in-law Adelaide saying that he needs a new wife and trying to force him to marry an awful woman named Mrs Quickly. At the end, the kids get him out of it by having him marry Evangeline the maid.
  • Light Is Not Good: Selma Quickly has blonde hair and wears bright clothing, but behind her smile is an unpleasant woman who would have been a terrible stepmother to the Brown children.
  • Magical Nanny: Nanny McPhee shows up to help parents who are at their wits' end and teaches the kids to behave, whether they want to or not. She also possesses magical powers, which she mostly channels through her stick.
  • Marry the Nanny: Mr. Brown doesn't marry the titular nanny, but instead the scullery maid Evangeline, who did settle fights among the family before Nanny McPhee came along.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • While not prominent, Celia and Cyril's surname is Gray while Isabel's family is Green. Celia and Cyril come from the city while Isabel's family lives on the countryside. This also ties into the themed naming from the film in general, as the protagonists from the last film have the surname Brown.
  • Missing Mom: Unlike the books, Mrs. Brown is dead. Her death is crucial to the plot as her aunt is threatening to cut off Cedric unless he marries before Adelaide’s deadline ends…by the end of the month.
    • Rory Green in the second movie is away serving in "the war," and is thus unaware of his brother Phil's attempts to con his wife Isabel out of their farm in order to pay Phil's gambling debts.
  • Mistaken for Flirting: Cedric Brown plans to marry Selma Quickly, but he's not in love with her; his aunt is pressuring him to get married or else she will send some of his kids to the workhouse. When the children are setting up pranks around the house and he is trying to protect her from them, she thinks his leaning on her, grabbing her hand, etc. are attempts at seduction.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • When Simon ruins Cedric's chance at marrying Mrs. Quickly, he believed he had finally stopped his father from attempting to get them an evil stepmother. Cedric, having tried to shield his kids from the reality of his financial situation (which requires him to be married by the end of the month, which was just days away, or he loses Aunt Adelaide's financial support), walks in completely destroyed and informs the kids of what they had just done.
  • Not So Above It All:
    • While she was sent to straighten out the Brown children, Nanny McPhee allows a little mischief to take place during the wedding and seemed to have participated in the bee scare. Although, it may be because she knew Mrs. Quickly would be an unfit stepmother to the children and was okay with the children driving her away a second time.
    • Like Nanny McPhee in the above example, Cedric was tired of his children causing trouble with their pranks. However, he proved himself to be okay with their mischief during the wedding and acted as though there were bees buzzing around Mrs. Quickly’s hat.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: A Running Gag. Nanny McPhee will appear behind people when she wasn't even previously close at all. She casually justifies this with the line:
    "I did knock."
  • Papa Wolf: A subtle example with Cedric near the end. When Selma gets fed up with the children’s antics and roughly grabs two of them, he protectively pulls them out of her grasp. While he may have been desperate to marry so his aunt-in-law would continue to support him and his family, he will not tolerate his prospective wife hurting his children.
  • Parental Substitute: Even though Evangeline was the Browns’ scullery maid, she appeared to be the closest thing to a maternal figure to the children with her being quick to stop their fights and take care of them. The children have no problems with Evangeline becoming their new stepmother.
  • Pie in the Face: Or wedding cake in the face, actually. Aunt Adelaide is too proper to throw food herself, so she has her servant throw on her behalf.
  • Playing Sick:
    • The children pretend to have the measles with Nanny McPhee, but she doesn't buy it for a second. And she punishes them for it by making them sick for real and physically unable to get out of their beds.
    • They also pretend to be attacked by bees at the wedding. It, too, becomes more real and succeeds.
  • Politeness Judo: Nanny McPhee utilizes this on occasion to throw adults off her supernatural aspects, like claiming she knocked whenever she teleports into a room because the person in the room would never want to accuse her of barging in, or gaining entry to the Brown household by catching Cedric off-guard with a direct request to come in.
  • Punny Name: Selma Quickly's surname, given that Cedric is under a short deadline to marry and she is the only available option. As Cedric puts it with dread, "I shall have to marry Quickly."
  • Radish Cure: Nanny McPhee's magic usually operates on the idea, as most of her lessons involve granting the childrens' wishes exactly. When they cause chaos in the kitchen or fight with each other, Nanny McPhee makes it impossible for them to stop, to the point of risking serious damage, until they verbally and politely express the desire to and apologize. When they pretend to be sick to stay in bed all day, Nanny McPhee will make them sick for real and magically bind them to their beds, requiring disgusting medicine and soup to heal, making their sick day no picnic. These methods soon earn the respect and obedience of the children.
  • Rags to Riches: Evangeline, who gets taken in by Aunt Adelaide in place of one of the children. She also undergoes this later when she marries Cedric, going from a scullery maid to the lady of the house.
  • Really 700 Years Old: If the fact that Nanny McPhee is the same in both movies despite a possible time difference of 60 years is any indication.
  • Remarrying for Your Kids: A major plot is the first movie is Cedric Brown's necessity to get remarried after his wife's death, due to his aunt-in-law promising to cut off his financial support if he does not find another wife. By the end of the movie, he marries Evangeline.
  • Revolting Rescue: In the sequel, Eidelwiess the talking crow accidentally saves Uncle Phil by burping so hard he blows Phil's would-be killers away.
  • Running Gag: "I did knock", which Nanny McPhee uses to disarm people who have noticed her instantaneous appearance into a room.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Evangeline. Though the effect is only acknowledged by the children; Cedric, who has been attracted to Evangeline even before, says she's always looked like that.
  • Signature Instrument: Aggie the baby is always seen with a rattle that's very special because her now-dead mother gave it to her. At one point, the evil would-be stepmother Mrs. Quickly breaks it, but then it falls from the sky intact. Decades later, when Aggie is an old woman, she has kept it as a cherished treasure.
  • Snow Means Love: At the end of the film, Nanny McPhee summons snow that magically cleans up the yard and removes the garish colors for the wedding of Cedric and Evangeline.
  • Social Climber: Mrs. Quickly allows herself to become reconciled to Mr. Brown (after his disastrous first attempt at a proposal) when she finds out that his aunt-in-law is Lady Adelaide Stitch. When she finally meets Lady Adelaide, Mrs. Quickly goes into extreme Professional Butt-Kisser mode.
  • Soup Is Medicine: Ms. Blatherwick, the cook, claims that the best thing to cure an ill person is potato gruel with peelings in. However, the children, who are Playing Sick, hate it.
  • Take a Third Option: In the first movie, Lady Adelaide gives Cedric an offer he can't refuse: she will take in one of his daughters (and only daughters) to live with her. She is especially keen on taking the youngest, Chrissie, while Nanny McPhee reminds the children that they can't send away the donkey they hoped to trick their great aunt into taking. It takes some quick thinking from Simon, but ultimately Evangeline is sent away, having been passed off as a daughter of Cedric's despite actually being their scullery maid. This later happens again with similar circumstances: Cedric marries Evangeline when he realizes he cannot marry Mrs. Quickly, his seeming only option.
  • Trickster Mentor:
    • Nanny McPhee always has five lessons to teach. What exactly those lessons turn out to be, and even anything else the people she helps may learn, is another matter.
    • While she typically goes to households with troublesome children and helps them become better, she knows when going hands-off and letting the children act on their desires can be instructive in its own right. For example, she allows Simon and his siblings to drive Mrs. Quickly away with their pranks so that they would learn the consequences (and that the aftermath results in opened communication about why Cedric is marrying again is another welcome result).
    • While she is a nanny to the children, it's implied that not all the lessons are for them. In the first movie, it's implied that Lesson 4 was more for Cedric than the children, and the final lesson in the second movie is implied to be for everyone in the household (even the uncle).
  • Tough Love: Nanny McPhee’s tactics for teaching the children to be better is by being a little harsher than one expects. When the Brown children pretended to be sick, she casted a spell on them, which made them actually sick and she treated them as one would with sick children like giving them medicine and having them eat soup.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Selma Quickly. Amusingly she says, "There are going to be changes around here.", a line made famous by Imelda Staunton as Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter's own Tyrant Takes the Helm story arc, while Imelda Staunton herself is playing the cook in this film. (And Emma Thompson's (Nanny McPhee) character, Professor Trelawney, was a victim of those changes.)
  • Unconventional Food Usage: When the kids are Playing Sick, they use pepper to make them sneeze.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Simon refuses to give Nanny McPhee any control in the kitchen scene... despite the fact that the curse they're under could cause his baby sister to be hurled into a pot of boiling water against his other siblings' will. Naturally, everyone is screaming at him to suck it up and apologize until he does so.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: After running off Selma Quickly, and a fix-up from Nanny McPhee, Cedric and Evangeline use the wedding to get married.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The Brown siblings chase away their father's prospects because they believe in this trope, and don't understand that Cedric has no other choice if he wants to get enough money from his aunt to support his family. Played straight in that Selma Quickly really would have been a rotten stepmother — had she actually married Mr. Brown. Subverted by the sweet Evangeline actually being the one becoming the kids' stepmother- much to everyone's joy.
  • Wicked Witch: Nanny McPhee takes significant cues from this. She's an old woman who wears a conservative outfit in all black, with an ugly nose, snaggle tooth, and warts, and uses a magic stick. The second film even gives her an animal companion who is strongly implied to be a human she transformed. Of course, she's not actually evil and her witchy elements decrease as the families learn.

Tropes specific to Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

  • Affably Evil: Topsey and Turvey, especially the former, are friendly, polite, and cheery to Phil. They also plan on subjecting him to several gruesome fates per Mrs. Biggles's instructions, but to them that's nothing to get upset over.
  • All There in the Manual: The film's Novelization greatly expands the backstories of most of the characters.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • On the night when things are going wrong after the cousins' arrival, someone bangs on the door and we see a familiar profile through the window. It turns out to be Phil holding a paper over his head. The next knock is actually from Nanny McPhee.
    • When Celia refuses to go out to help catching piglets in the mud, at first it seems to her (and us) that Nanny McPhee is going to force her to go outside with magic...then she just holds up a pair of wellingtons.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In the sequel. The extent of Phil's wrongdoing is finally made known to Isabel, even as he tries to get the military police guy to cart him off - but the MP has to tend to a bomb threat, leaving Phil with a handcuff on him. Isabel takes the other end and cuffs him to the wall, sealing his fate one way or another.
  • Big Bad: Phil's efforts to manipulate the Greens into selling the family farm are what cause all the problems in the film, with the exception of the UXB, which was just poor timing.
  • Blanket Tug O' War: The baby elephant takes Vincent's blanket for itself.
  • Blatant Lies: As with before, Nanny McPhee offers a strange justification for herself, calling herself an "army nanny" in this film and indulging a bit in the army motif. She does have the respect of several soldiers, but it's implied they all had visits from her.
  • Blitz Evacuees: The cousins from London. Though that wasn't the only reason they were sent to the countryside...
  • Brainy Pig: Zigzagged in the sequel. The piglets do synchronised swimming and climb trees, but that was because McPhee put a spell on them. The guy who buys them claims that he knew a pig who could play Scrabble and another who could count to ten in French. He turns out to be joking for the last one, but he admits that pigs are clever animals.
  • Bright Is Not Good: Topsey and Turvey both wear bright clothing with popping colors, and they're both hitwomen.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • When the kids talk about the pigs' amazing abilities, like synchronized swimming and climbing trees, Isabel tells them to stop telling lies.
    • Similarly, the characters laugh off Mr. Docherty's hypothetical scenario of a pilot sneezing and accidentally dropping a bomb on the empty countryside, but this is exactly what happens in the climax. Fortunately, it doesn't go off and it can be defused.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: When the bomb hits.
    Vincent: I'm going to get under the table.
    Mrs Green: I'll pop the kettle on.
    Mr Docherty: Mine's a milk and two sugars.
  • Chekhov's Skill: From a bird of all things, whose predilection for putty comes in handy when defusing a bomb.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mrs. Docherty's a bit odd, seemingly from a mix of old age and innate whimsy. She stores loose syrup in shop drawers, decides to sit on a cow pat even after learning what it is because it looks comfortable, and when her husband, a safety marshal, faints during the bomb defusing panic, she earnestly tries to wake him up so he doesn't miss the explosion.
  • Continuity Nod: In the sequel, Mrs. Docherty turns out to be Aggie, the youngest Brown child from the previous movie, and she still has her precious rattle.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: In the sequel, Mrs. Docherty, the loopy general store owner played by Maggie Smith happens to know Nanny McPhee personally.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Faked by Celia to keep her aunt Isabel from signing Phil's contract to sell the farm. When the film cuts back to the scene, we find out that she manages to pull this off for thirty minutes, screaming the whole time.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: The kids in the second film have one when they realize it wasn't some military tech or gas that Nanny McPhee used on them, but magic.
  • Foreshadowing: A British Royal Guard turns out to be one of Nanny McPhee's charges from the past. So was old Mrs. Docherty— known as Agatha/Aggie Brown before her marriage.
  • Freak Out: When the bomb hits, it seems the pressure of the last few days - trying to get Isabel to sell the farm before time runs out and Topsy and Turvy butcher him - hits Phil all at once and he starts desperately begging Mr Docherty to arrest him where he'll be safe, much to everybody's confusion.
  • Frozen Fashion Sense: Nanny McPhee's personal attire hasn't changed in the decades since the previous story, though she briefly dons a contemporary army uniform when speaking to her former charge.
  • Gasshole: Mr. Edelweiss the rook's habit of eating putty turns him into one. Consistently.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Mrs. Biggles is a casino owner who Phil owes gambling debts to. While she never appears in the film, she's the one who sends Topsey and Turvey after Phil, thus driving Phil to his Big Bad actions.
  • Injured Limb Episode: Rory Green comes back at the end of the second film with his arm in a sling.
  • Kicking My Own Butt: Nanny McPhee casts a spell on the Greens and their cousins, which causes them to fight themselves rather than each other while Vincent gets compelled to destroy their valuables, and will end up destroying their father's letters if the scene goes on. She promises to lift the spell if they apologize for hurting each other.
  • Leap of Faith: In the sequel film, one of Nanny McPhee's medals is for Leaps of Faith and, at the end of the film, she awards it to Isabel.
  • Lighter and Softer: The second film has a lot more whimsical, extravagant, and perhaps frivolous uses of magic, and the scary vibe around Nanny McPhee herself is reduced, with her participating in more comedic moments.
  • Light Is Not Good: Miss Topsey and Miss Turvey are both pretty blond women who wear bright clothing, and sound sweet and friendly. They're also mercenaries who are perfectly happy to kill anyone Mrs. Biggles asks them to.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The girls have to prevent Isabel from signing the deed to the farm, and Megsie successfully filches uncle Phil's pen. When Phil finds three more in a drawer, Nanny McPhee intervenes by bringing back the baby elephant to snatch the three pens without him knowing. And then he finds the first pen on Megsie.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Miss Topsy and Miss Turvy in the sequel, who talk about harvesting Phil's kidneys and taxidermising him with mad glee.
  • Novelization: This film has one written by Emma Thompson, who plays Nanny McPhee and was the writer for both films. It was her first ever children's book and it takes the form of a movie filming diary mixed in with the film's story.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Implied. Nanny McPhee asks Norman to not lose her stick as the paperwork to replace it is unbelievable.
  • Overly Long Scream: Celia when faking seeing a mouse. She apparently had been screaming for half an hour straight.
  • Pet the Dog: Cyril and Celia’s butler is just as pompous as they are and wants to leave them behind as fast as possible, but when he returns to give them some unfortunate news involving their parents he is much softer to them and even seems to be on the verge of tears showing he does care for their well-being.
  • Running Gag: "Nanny McPhee. Small 'c', big 'P'" becomes Nanny McPhee's standard greeting.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Mrs. Docherty is revealed to be Aggie Brown from the first movie.
  • The Stinger: At the end, the elephant gets to enjoy the Scratch-o-Matic machine that was designed for the pigs.
  • Time Bomb: Of a sort. An unexploded bomb drops and must be defused, with the pressure of error and its potential to explode at any moment by itself.
  • Title Drop: Mr. Docherty warns Isabel and family of the threat of bombings, calling it "the Big Bang". The American title averts this.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Megsie and Celia, although the difference is less obvious as the movie goes on and they get closer to each other.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Why Phil is so desperate in convincing Isabel to sell the Greens' farm in the sequel. He gambled away his legal half of the farm at a casino, and two hit women eagerly want to either collect it, or his kidneys.
  • Wardrobe Wound: Celia shrieks more about her new clothes being dragged in the mud than during the ensuing beat-'em-up scene.
  • Wire Dilemma: With an unexploded bomb.


Video Example(s):


When You Want Me...

Having accomplished her goal of taming the Brown children (and aiding their father as well), Nanny McPhee leaves the family, though not before stopping to pay her respects to the deceased Brown matriarch. "There is something you should understand about the way I work. When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ButNowIMustGo

Media sources: