I loved this movie! It is easily one of the best musicals ever made. First of all, the songs are absolutely marvelous, and I mean it. "Boy for sale" is sombre though very good; but all the other songs are glorious, and will put a smile on your face: "Consider yourself"; "You've got to pick a pocket or two"; "It's a fine life," "Come back soon," I'd do anything," "Who Will Buy," "Reviewing the Situation;" "Oom-pah-pah" are just some of the examples that have stayed in my memory after just one viewing. To say that they are wonderful is an understatement. They are also beautifully sung. One reviewer notes that Oliver's singing voice (dubbed by a girl) irritates him. Don't worry about that. I agree that perhaps it could have been better, and yet I think the singing voice matches Oliver's speaking voice very well, as well as his presentation as a timid little boy. After all, they couldn't have cast Julie Andrews in all of the roles, in all of the musicals ever made. The singing of Nancy, played beautifully and convincingly by Shani Wallis, is very good, as is the singing of the Artful Dodger.
All of the actors shine in their roles: Oliver is portrayed as a timid and naive little boy. The kind hearted and devoted Nancy, who sacrifices herself for the sake of others,won my sympathy right away. Fagin is one of the best comical characters I have ever seen on screen, and you simply get attached to him. There were in fact moments when I was deeply touched by this man so entrapped in a life of crime, that he cannot escape it. The boy playing the Artful Dodger, one of the most talented thieves of Fagin's gang, is amazing - look out for the expressions on his face throughout the film, very artful indeed, and very touching at the same time; I could not avoid loving him. Bill Sykes emerges as a perfect villain, with only a touch of repentance at the end. All of the characters are supremely convincing. Pay attention to the accents, set to match the social status of each character.
Besides, the settings are lavish, and the colours superb, especially the market and Bloomsbury Square, and the food shown in the movie made me hungry (I actually ran to the kitchen at one point). Food, of course, is one of the major themes of the movie, from its opening, where the little boys starving at the workhouse and singing "Food, Glorious Food" send Oliver to ask for more (he is refused, almost needless to say); to the gang of thieves who must "pick a pocket or two" to eat; to the gentlemen and gentlewomen in the market who have money to buy their food.
As other reviewers have mentioned, the street dances are beautifully choreographed. I was impressed by the coordination of movement between the masses of dancers performing all at the same time. Also, look out for the amazingly coordinated scene of the workhouse boys' dinner at the beginning of the movie, one of the most impressive symbolic scenes ever seen on screen. This is soon followed by the unforgettable scene where Oliver asks for more, and which also features in the movie trailer.
One reviewer writes that this movie can get boring if watched repeatedly. I strongly disagree with that statement. The contrary is true: this is one of those movies that one never tires of, because it has some of the elements that make a classic: believable and likeable characters, memorable lines, and unforgettable, truly unforgettable, songs.
I also do not think it is a particularly dark version of Dickens' novel. Only the beginning is really dark, and the killing of Nancy, which is somehow redeemed by the knowlege that her sacrifice will benefit Oliver, as well as put a stop to Bill Sykes' life of crime. The rest is truly life affirming, with Fagin and the Artful Dodger providing comic relief most of the time, despite their wily ways and persistance in crime.
One word of warning: you may find the beginning of the movie somewhat slow, as I did at first, especially because of the long and in my opinion far from impressive overture, and the overlong film credits; the first couple of scenes or so can be a bit slow too, but expect to be absolutely blown away soon afterwards.
In sum, this is definitely a movie to see, to own, to rewatch, a true classic of the kind they really don't make anymore, and wholeheartedly recommended. I give it more than five stars, I give it ten out of ten.