Notes from the back row 

Another British invasion


These are dark days. The holiday credit card bills are arriving in time to coincide with the admittance that we haven’t gotten around to doing any of our New Year’s resolutions. This, plus the fact that, as a nation, we’ve elected to be more like the Yanks, means it’s high time for a dose of that age-old hero of British sensibility, the Nanny.

Director Kirk Jones gives us his take on the children’s genre with Nanny McPhee, opening Friday at the Village 8. Starring Emma Thompson, who adapted the script and is fresh off a stint of rearing some kids of her own, Mcphee updates the Mary Poppins theme (the kids are brats now) but not the mansions-and-nightgowns timeframe.

Widower father (Colin Firth), his children having run off 17 nannies, finds himself with no options other than Nanny McPhee, a snaggle-toothed, warty, cane-carrying woman who just happens to be a witch. She comes across as a hard ass at first but of course McPhee manages to teach the children respect and self-reliance. The Brit sensibility is no more apparent than when a snot-nosed kid pleads, "Wot do Aye do Nanny?" and she replies, almost annoyed, "Think."

While I’m reluctant to heap accolades on a movie about babysitting ( Don’t tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead still rules that sub-genre) let me just say that the visuals and CGI in this film are quite well done and Jones has figured out a way to make the magic both subtle and impressive at the same time. It comes across quite realistically, for magic. Add in an all-star Brit cast (including Derek Jacobi, Angela Lansbury, and Kelly MacDonald) who are obviously enjoying themselves, and I guess this is the kind of movie one could feel good about taking their children to see.

Actually, the undercurrent, socially-ordered, love story between Dad and dish maid (MacDonald) might touch the adults a bit too. The English are enjoyably darker and funnier than the Americans, too bad their nannies have taught them how to tip.

Sticking with nannies, we have a waste of time, film and review space called Big Momma’s House 2 . A sequel? Come on. Who watches this crap and where do they live? I never want to go there. Hollywood wonders why box office numbers are down? Dark days indeed.

One shining bright spot this lugubrious week is that Jerry Bruckheimer, of all people, has managed to sneak a pretty decent basketball/racial tension flick in with Glory Road. Based on the true story of how, in 1966 Texas no less, Coach Don Haskins started more black kids than whiteys on the basketball court and took his team all the way to the NCAA championship, it’s a pretty decent flick. While the story is predictable, rushed, a bit cliched, and, at times, ridiculous (everyone knows they weren’t doing alley-oop slam dunks off the backboard in 1966 college ball), Glory Road still delivers emotionally at some level and touches on the role of sports in fighting the ignorance of racism. Add a few Motown songs and first-time director James Gartner’s film does a good job reminding us that the civil rights movement wasn’t that long ago and perhaps we should all be thinking less conservatively for the future, not more.

As I mentioned last week, George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck , is a must see and will be winning at least one Oscar this year. Check it out and remember, these are dark days and there’s a whole world full of problems out there. But if you get first tracks down Ruby Bowl on a 20 cm+ day, they totally go away. Bubble life rules.

AT VILLAGE 8 Jan. 27-Feb. 2: Glory Road; Good Night and Good Luck; Nanny McPhee; Big Momma’s House 2; Annapolis; Chronicles of Narnia; Brokeback Mountain; Munich; Underworld Evolution.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE Jan. 27-Feb. 2: Crash.


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