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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 Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Brrrrrr. It's palpably cold as the English winds wail in NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, by EMMA's director Douglas McGrath. Although initially there's typically Dickensian cruelty around every corner, eventually the forces of good prevail, and the evil are smitten.

Nicholas Nickleby (Charlie Hunnam) is a "19-year-old and head of his family." His father lost his fortune and, soon thereafter, his life due to "speculation." Having a mother and a sister to care for, Nicholas turns to his father's brother, Ralph (Christopher Plummer), for assistance. Ralph, a nefarious businessman who fleeces his investors, has anything but the family's good in mind. Ralph sends Nicholas to teach at an inhumane school -- Are there any other kind in Dickens's stories? -- run by Wackford Squeers (Jim Broadbent) and tries to use Nicholas's sister, Kate (Romola Garai), as a tool to open investors' wallets. Ralph is a bit of a philosopher of the dark side. "People who wish to be thought of as good are always weak," he muses to Squeers.

The film is extremely well cast, especially in the large number of supporting roles. As radiant as ever, Anne Hathaway (THE PRINCESS DIARIES) plays Madeline Bray, Nicholas's love interest. Jamie Bell (BILLY ELLIOT) does a moving turn as Smike, a cripple who becomes Nicholas's best friend. Nathan Lane is hilarious as Vincent Crummles, the head of a small acting company with boundless energy. Alan Cumming plays Mr. Folair, one of Vincent's actors. Mr. Folair's modest ambition is to finally get to perform his beloved Highland fling on stage. In possibly the most charming part, Timothy Spell plays one half of a pair of Tweedledum and Tweedledee business brothers who come to Nicholas's aid.

"What happens if we lose a parent, that party on whom we rely for -- everything?" Vincent asks at the end of our tragedy. In Nicholas's case, he fights this adversity and triumphs in the end. The tale that starts off so darkly ends happily and, one hopes, forever after.

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY runs 2:12. It is rated PG for "thematic material involving some violent action and a childbirth scene" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up. Younger children might be okay, but the film is probably too intense for them, and there is a whipping scene that will likely frighten them.

k My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it ***. He said that it was well made and well cast, especially in the role of Nicholas. He liked the twists in the story, particularly the last big one.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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