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Case Number 15632

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Nanny Insanity

Anchor Bay // 2006 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // February 6th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Bromley was so busy writing this review, he didn't notice the family of Russians secretly living in his house.

The Charge

Hiring a nanny? Check references!

Opening Statement

The box art for the 2006 comedy Nanny Insanity prominently features the following quote, attributed to 6ABC Prime Time Weekend: "If you like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you'll love Nanny Insanity!"

Strike one. It wouldn't be the last.

Facts of the Case

Married couple Marsha (Cynthia Preston, Prom Night III: The Last Kiss) and David (Larry Dorf, Evan Almighty) are expecting their first baby. Marsha can't keep up with the housework, the baby and her full-time job. What's a couple to do? Should David actually attempt to contribute more around the house than bitter complaints and snarky one-liners? That's what a couple in the real world would do.

No, in this sitcom universe, David and Marsha heed the advice of Marsha's parents (played by Mindy Sterling of the Austin Powers films and Howard Hesseman of Private Lessons) and hire a Russian nanny. Actually I think what they were looking for is more of a housekeeper, but nothing rhymes with "housekeeper."

Imagine what wackiness might ensue when said Russian housekeeper (Alla Karot, of Fracture) isn't very good at keeping house (or taking care of a baby, as that title of "nanny" suggests). Instead, she's just looking for her ticket into the United States—and even begins sneaking her family members to live in the house one at a time.


The Evidence

Sometimes, when reviewing a comedy, a critic will claim that the actors or the filmmakers will do "anything for a laugh." The Farrelly Brothers, in their prime, were often accused of this—but it wasn't meant as a slam. When a filmmaker actually achieves laughs, the "They'll do anything" line is meant as a compliment.

Then there's a movie like Nanny Insanity (originally titled Domestic Import, which is generic but not as offensively annoying), which tries to do anything for a laugh and fails at all of them. And when you do anything for a laugh and fail, it just comes off as desperate. Here is but a sampling of what the movie includes:

• Russian characters using the wrong English words
• Mistaken identity
• A mentally retarded boy who eats everything in sight
• A person falling down
• A man getting his foot stepped on
• A reaction shot from a baby

If you find any of these things funny, Nanny Insanity might be for you. If you don't, you're me.

I've seen a lot of movies that are worse than Nanny Insanity, but few that irritated me more. It's lame and unfunny, sure, but so are a lot of so-called comedies. I can't quite put my finger on what bothered me so much about this film, but I can say that it really bothered me. I'm downright hostile towards it.

Maybe it's that it reduces every character to a cartoon. Or maybe it's that the humor is pitched at a level only dogs can hear. Or maybe it's that it can't choose a side: we're meant to sympathize with nanny Sophia, but then she spends the rest of the film being kind of awful. We can't side with David, the put upon husband, because he's little more than a miserable complainer—a one-liner machine for the screenwriter's joke factory. He's a Woody Allen character as written by someone who doesn't get Woody Allen movies.

The film is supposedly based on a true story about a nanny who was hired and then slowly started moving her family into the house in secret. Is there potential for a comedy there? Probably. But Nanny Insanity isn't it. It actually can't be bothered with its own premise; for the most part, the movie is just about a Russian nanny who doesn't do housework and is trying to find a husband. There's one scene where David wants cookies, but they've already been eaten by a houseful of Russians. In another scene, David finds out about the family because the nanny's mom, Babushka (demonstrating that the screenwriter knows at least one Russian word, even if it isn't a name), has a heart attack and has to be rushed to the hospital. But then David decides it's OK that she's there, and neither complications nor comedy arise. The basic premise of the movie, about a group of Russian immigrants secretly moving in to an upscale suburban home, is rarely exploited until the film's climax. By then it's too late.

Anchor Bay is the studio responsible for foisting Nanny Insanity on us, nearly three years after its very, very limited theatrical run (it sounds like a theater in Philadelphia and a theater in California). The film is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, and is one of the darkest comedies I've ever seen—and I'm not talking about the tone of the humor. I don't know how much of it is the cinematography and how much of it is the DVD mastering, but the image is really shadowy and dark. Light levels are really low (maybe they could only afford a single key light), making things generally hard to see at times. Maybe that's a blessing.

The audio is fine but unremarkable, and the fact that English captions are included is a nice touch. At least one joke (which is repeated several times) makes more sense written than heard, so it practically depends on subtitles. As for extras, there's only a single deleted scene and some trailers.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I have to admit that I did perk up a bit when I saw the name of His Rowdiness, Roddy Piper, in the opening credits. Surely, the movie wouldn't be a total wash.

He's in the movie for all of two minutes, playing a racist blind date in a cowboy hat. And here I was keeping my fingers crossed that he was all out of bubble gum.

Closing Statement

Since I started this review by calling attention to a quote on the disc jacket, I'll do the same to close out (I'm all about the bookends). The blurb of the disc reads: "What were they thinking! (sic)"

Minus the obvious error in punctuation, I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Verdict

I never thought I would see a movie that would have me actually recommending My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 78
Audio: 80
Extras: 10
Acting: 70
Story: 60
Judgment: 64

Perp Profile

Studio: Anchor Bay
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scene
• Theatrical Trailer


• Official Site
• IMDb

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