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Movie Review: Nicholas Nickleby

Story: Director and writer Douglas McGrath ably manages to pare down Charles Dickens' 900 page novel (which was also an eight hour Broadway play) to just 130 minutes without ruining its integrity. It is still the Dickens we all know. There is the standard, good vs. evil, the pure hearted hero, the cruel schoolmaster, the wicked Uncle and of course the rampant depiction of the stereotypical English class structure with all of its injustices. Everything that reeks of what we know the word Dickensian to mean.

Because McGrath wanted to keep Nickleby to about two hours in length many of the novels' characters have been eliminated. The film is episodic and linear in its presentation with the conclusion and loose end tie-ups coming fast and furious during the last ten minutes. Pay attention!

Acting: I enjoyed the evil characters much more than the good, pure of heart roles. The juicy, despicable characters are so much more colorful, you know. Jim Broadbent and Juliet Stevenson as the wicked Squeers' were simply wonderful. She actually scared me. Christopher Plummer was deliciously mean as the nasty, evil Uncle. Tom Courtenay as Noggs was tip top. Jamie Bell (Billy Eliot) was the crippled Smike. I kept thinking he would actually get up and dance as he did in Billy Eliot (he didn't). Charlie Hunnam was adequate as Nicolas Nickleby but just didn't have that extra spark that was needed. Nathan Lane was, well - Nathan Lane.

Predilections: None.

Critters: A chick in a nest, a dead bird and horses.

Food: The poor kids in the Squeers School were eating Castor Oil and gruel. No, this isn't the one where the kid asks for More gruel, please. The Squeers family were eating high on the hog, literally.

Visual Art: Fine attention to detail in all of the rooms.

Blatant Product Placement: None

Soundtrack: Unobtrusive.

Opening Titles: A sweet sequence with storytelling miniature dolls.

Theater Audience: Packed for a Martin Luther King Monday afternoon.

Sappy Factor: 3 (don't forget - this is a morality play).

Predictability Level: High - whether you are familiar with the story or not.

Oscar Worthy: No.

Nit Picking: It could have been edited more tightly.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen would be nice - and if you desire even more Dickens, here are some rentals for you: Great Expectations (a few versions), A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol (more versions than we actually need), Cricket of the Hearth (silent film), The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Nicholas Nickleby, (1947 version).

Length: Ten minutes over the two hour LOBO rule.