Directed by Kirk Jones, starring Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Kelly Macdonald, Celia Imrie, Derek Jacobi, Phyllida Law, Imelda Staunton and Thomas Sangster.

With just a month to go until the release of the next Harry Potter movie, 'Nanny McPhee' is the perfect tonic for children (and many adults!) who are tired of waiting for the return of Hogwart's finest.

Emma Thompson has turned her skills to another screenplay – this time adapting  the 'Nurse Matilda' books penned by Christianna Brand in the 1960s.

'Nanny McPhee' tells the tale of the seven badly behaved Brown children, who have suffered the loss of their mother. They are determined to make life as difficult as possible for the nannies employed by their father (Firth), who is failing to pay them adequate attention. They have already been through 17 nannies since the demise of their mother and Mr Brown is at his wits end.

Unbeknownst to the children their father is facing extra pressure: their Great Aunt Adelaide (Lansbury) has been funding the family, due to his own financial shortcomings, and has insisted that he remarry within one month. 

As a result, Mr Brown has rushed into a panic decision to marry a seemingly money-grabbing/children-hating associate, Mrs Quickly (Imrie). This is in spite of the fact that his housekeeper Evangeline (Macdonald) is obviously besotted with him but fears to act on her affections.

Help comes in the shape of Nanny McPhee, who describes herself as a "government nanny". This mysterious, magical figure sets out to teach the children five lessons that will make life easier for all concerned. Though the children are reluctant to do as ordered in the beginning, all it takes are a couple of taps of Nanny McPhee's walking stick to convince them to behave in an appropriate manner.

'Nanny McPhee' is brilliant in the way that it distances itself from similar movies involving children and magic. There is never an over-dependence on the magic, and special effects, employed by Nanny McPhee to carry the movie and keep our attention. The plight of the children and the way if affects them, their father and the housekeeper are more than enough to keep the audience preoccupied.

The performances are excellent and particularly impressive is Angela Lansbury, in her role as Great Aunt Adelaide, who threatens to take away one of the children to raise them as her own. Thomas Sangster, who most people will remember from his role as the budding drummer/Romeo in 'Love Actually', also excels as the eldest child in the Brown household.

Thompson has previously received an Oscar for her adapted screenplay of 'Sense And Sensibility' and she should find herself among the nominations again come the awards season. 

'Nanny McPhee' triumphs by focusing on the trials and tribulations of the Brown family rather than focusing on the magic used by the mysterious Nanny. 

Patrick Kennedy