The Nanny Diaries is not the least bit clever or funny. Despite being based on a book that estimable men and women I know have praised, despite the presence of Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti in the cast and despite direction by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini of American Splendor, Nanny has nothing to say, and is just annoying from start to finish.
In fact, I'd argue that the film on one level is offensive in the way it compares the life of Scarlett Johannson's character, who can quit the job anytime she wants, to the other nannies - all of color - whom the film offers no joy in the work nor escape from it. Surely there was some nuance that could have been offered even in a light summer movie, even if in the end the film is meant to belong to Johannson. Instead, the film paints with such broad, familiar strokes that you wonder whether there was very much thought behind it at all.
What's meant to be inspiring is instead depressing; the movie leaves you feeling that unless you're a dilettante like Johannson's Annie, being a nanny is a prison sentence without chance of parole. If that's true, that's an awful place to leave an entire group of people in and completely in contrast to the movie's attempt to be uplifting by its conclusion. If it's false, then the movie is disingenuous. Only Johannson gets the slightest pleasure from being a nanny as well as any chance at a better life after moving on.
Even if I'm overanalyzing this one aspect of the film, however, it doesn't change the wastefulness of the overall piece.