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Nicholas Nickleby

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Nicholas Nickleby

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jamie Bell
Director: Douglas McGrath
Rated: PG
RunTime: 132 Minutes
Release Date: December 2002
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Anne Hathaway, Jim Broadbent, Juliet Stevenson, Tom Courtenay, Hugh Mitchell, Gerard Horan, Romola Garai, Nathan Lane, Christopher Plummer

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

Perhaps part of the greatness of Charles Dickens' stories is that they can be reinterpreted in so many ways. In this surprisingly lighthearted version, writer/director Douglas McGrath ("Emma," "Bullets Over Broadway") focuses on the realities of Victorian life, particularly the extended family, defined as a group of beloved people, chosen one by one. As the story begins, the Devonshire family of 19 year-old Nicholas (Charlie Hunnam) is left penniless when his father (Andrew Havill) dies. When they appeal to their Uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer) in London, he maliciously sends Nicholas off to work as a teacher at the decrepit Dotheboys School while his mother (Stella Gonet) toils as a seamstress and his sister Kate (Romola Garai) is forced to "entertain" Ralph's lecherous cronies. Dotheboys (as in "do-the-boys") turns out to be a wretched hovel where illegitimate or unwanted urchins are beaten and starved by nasty, sadistic Wackford Squeers (Jim Broadbent) and his cruel wife (Juliet Stevenson). Nicholas befriends Smike (Jamie Bell), a crippled orphan, and they run away together to seek their fortunes and - aided by Newman Noggs (Tom Courtenay) - wreak revenge on cold-blooded Uncle Ralph. En route, Nicholas joins a colorful, campy theatrical troupe (Nathan Lane, Dame Edna, Alan Cummings) and falls in love with a winsome - if destitute - wench (Ann Hathaway). While this version is fast (130 minutes) and funny, the character of Nicholas has been reduced to one-dimensional geniality, losing his cool only once when a cad corners and gropes his innocent sister Kate. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Nicholas Nickleby" is a startlingly sweet 7. And look for Douglas McGrath's introduction to the new Penguin edition of Charles Dickens' "Nicholas Nickleby."

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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