(directors/writers: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini; screenwriter: novel by Emma Mclauglin and Nicola Kraus; cinematographer: Terry Stacy; editor: Robert Pulcini; music: Mark Suozzo; cast: Scarlett Johansson(Annie Braddock), Nicholas Reese Art(Grayer), Chris Evans (Harvard Hottie), Laura Linney(Mrs. X), Paul Giamatti (Mr. X), Alicia Keys(Lynette), Donna Murphy(Judy Braddock), Nathan Cordday (Calvin), Julie White (Jane Gould), Rosa Nino (Maria the Maid); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Dany Wolf/Richard Gladstein ; MGM/The Weinstein Company; 2007)

Bland and shallow satire on being a college grad nanny on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for a dysfunctional rich couple.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This bland and shallow satire on being a college grad nanny on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for a dysfunctional rich couple is only at best slightly amusing. It’s co-directed and co-written by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (“American Splendor”/”Cinema Verite”), whose adaptation of the best selling novel by former nannies Emma McLaughin and Nicola Kraus should have been less tame and more vexing. The working-class family girl Annie Braddock (Scarlett Johansson) is a 21-year-old suburban New Jerseyite, who recently graduated from Montclair State University and professes an interest in anthropology but is encouraged by her mom (Donna Murphy) to seek a career in the financial world to make good use of her business degree. But a job interview for a business firm bums her out and while sitting in Central Park to chill out she stumbles onto a nanny job after rescuing a distracted boy from being run over in the park. The kid’s harried mom mistakes Annie for a nanny (the pic’s big rhyming joke of Annie for nanny when introduced) and offers her the job. On a whim Annie takes the job, treating it as if it was an anthropological study requiring her to write her observations in her diary of how the Park Avenue elites raise their kids. We, unfortunately, hear her cloying comments via a voiceover. The job also gives Annie a chance to live away from home in swinging Manhattan. Her snooty and highly neurotic employer lives on the Upper East Side and is known as Mrs. X (Laura Linney). The hubby, Mr. X (Paul Giamatti), is a workaholic businessman who is emotionally detached from the family and an absentee dad. Annie will have a small room in their luxury place and be in charge of caring for their spoiled brat 4-year-old son Grayer (Nicholas Reese Art), who attends a Christian private pre-school. The usually more assertive Scarlet is saddled with a muted role where she gets dumped on by the overbearing Linney and is coldly treated by the man of the house. The kid suffers from a lack of parental attention and love, as the observant Annie and anyone over ten can detect. Annie is determined to give the revolting kid her unconditional love, and we’re led to believe she stays on this bad job for the kid’s sake (if you believe that, you might be ripe for a telemarketer to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge). There’s also a phony looking love interest thrown in. Annie refers to him as the Harvard Hottie (Chris Evans), who happens to be a nice rich guy who lives in an upstairs apartment. But she gives him a difficult time when he tries to date her, so you can forget about any sex scenes. There’s no suspense as to the eventual outcome in such an unimaginative dramedy, as we watch the uncomfortable Annie as she’s coerced into re-assessing her aimless life and finally taking control of it by assering herself. At least Scarlett is pleasant and has the chops to do comedy, but the story is as bad as one of the brat’s rants.