Reviewing the Review

I like to look through the newspaper on Saturdays and Sundays to find out what is going on in our area and make appropriate plans. I usually don't read the movie reviews very often – rare is the day when I actually agree with one; the main reason for that being that I usually demand a happy ever after of some sort. I get enough "gritty reality" in day to day life, in my fantasy world I like things to turn out awesome every time.

For some reason, though, I found myself reading the review for the second Nanny McPhee movie. My kids loved the first movie, and I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing the second one (albeit on Netflix rather than mortgaging our home further for a night at the theater). I was truly interested to learn that the plot of the new movie includes a father away at war.

That sounds like something my kids will definitely relate to – and something that we don't often find done in an engaging and child-appropriate manner. I also think, judging from their partiality to the children in the Narnia movies and Sarah in A Little Princess, it's something that my children want to see more of. As I read the review, though, something interesting jumped out at me.

In the words of the Washington Post reviewer:

There are mature themes about the possibility of losing a father in war, and magical Nanny McPhee, with her facial warts, bad teeth, black garb, thudding cane and burping crow companion, could scare some kids 6 and younger.

I have never considered having a father away at war a "mature theme."

That doesn't mean that I think the reviewer was wrong to label it as such, or that I have my unmentionables in a bunch over the fact that the warning was thrown in there. I had just never thought of it in that way because that's really the only mental state my children have ever known. And it just is for them. Our Venn diagram overlaps the civilian one in some places, but I think that this is one place where there is no meeting.

Once again, I don't mean that in a bad way. I think that many civilians are tremendously sensitive to the life military families are living while our country is at war. I live in a civilian neighborhood right now, and the amount of support I was given during Air Force Guy's latest deployment was simply incredible. I had people to fix electrical issues that showed up in my house on a moment's notice and without charge. I had people to check on me, and my children's coaches and sports teams were aware of our situation and made huge allowances for the activities I could participate in. I could never have survived the last year without going completely insane without their unwavering support.

But I think that the emotional toll and the things we must do to survive at home during deployments just can't be translated, they can't truly be understood, unless it is a shared experience. The horror and -even worse and to my vast humiliation- the pity in some of the looks I get when something big goes down down-range show that gulf. The "I don't know how you do it!" and "I could never do that!" comments, the sudden quiet of a conversation about the war when my children are noticed to be in ear-shot… They all line up exactly with the review of Nanny McPhee Returns: a mature theme.

When to us, it is just life. And there is comfort for us and for our children in seeing someone else who is living that life as well.

About the Author


airforcewife started her military journey as an Army National Guard wife, but upon experiencing base housing decided to aim high and made the switch to the Air Force. That's worked pretty well for Air Force Family so far, even though airforcewife holds the spouse world record for Come to Jesus talks with various members of the command.

Air Force Family has four children, two pit bulls, and a Mother-in-Law who lost her mind eight years ago. Despite the reputation of pit bulls, airforcewife would like to assure you that her Mother-in-Law is truly the most dangerous of the group, and is banned in more places than the dogs.

airforcewife gets through Air Force Guy's frequent deployments and TDY's by frequently attending her boxing gym, after the chance discovery last deployment that hitting things really does make life better. She also volunteers as the Ambassador for Sew Much Comfort to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center and in a variety of other causes throughout the year.

airforcewife has no idea what the future holds, but decided five years ago that she wants to be Andi when she grows up.

  • kirsten

    Sounds like a movie I’d take my kids to, and I hear you about the mature theme designation.
    On a possibly-related note, ever seen The Water Horse? We saw it one year as one of those free or cheap summer movies, and it was a very dark movie (possibly a bad copy? I dunno) but one of the underlying themes on that one is that the father died in the war and the kid either doesn’t know or is unable to believe it.
    And yet this summer the USO showed that movie at Ft Myer for some summer movie program. Of all the movies out there to choose from, one where the dad doesn’t come back from the war is not what I would choose to show.
    well, I apparently have soapboxes to climb now that the kids are back in school.

  • Have you seen How to Train Your Dragon? One of the things I like about the end is that the main character is injured saving his family and his friends — he loses a leg. And when he regains consciousness and goes outside, it really feels like a victory, even though he’s been hurt. I really liked that.

  • Maharet

    Holy cow. I don’t have kids, but I watched Nanny McPhee (yeah, I’m like that) and the Water Horse. I LOVED both movies. I had forgotten what the Water Horse was about though. I’ve noticed that I’ve been more sensitive about war themes in movies. I’ll usually stay away from them in general, but there’s really no escaping them is there?
    I never thought about what I’d have to worry about if I had kids too. That just really sucks because you know what you feel when you can relate to a movie. Imagine your kids. They have such a raw imagination. How in the world does one handle that?

  • I agree that it is a mature theme but so many children have to deal with it.
    Mature themes are the reason I avoid Disney movies for the most part.. even as an adult… They don’t warn you, but a parent dies at the beginning of almost every one of them. I did finally watch Nemo (starting several minutes into, missed the adult part) but I have never seen Bambi. Maybe people love the movies and don’t think of it as adult themes because they have forgotten the beginning when they get to the happy ending.
    Adult movies, as you mentioned, start bad and end worse. lol.. THAT is what movie makers think of as “real life”. I guess they don’t think adults get happy endings. Maybe I won’t grow up.

  • Here’s another link on HTYD:
    Considering how many soldiers are coming back disabled, it’s nice to see a kid’s movie that doesn’t treat serious injury as a loss.