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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtue - and audiences - rewarded
Despite being overlooked on release, Douglas McGrath's wonderful 2002 version of Dickens' tale of good rewarded captures both the feel and the sound of Dickens remarkably well. This world is indeed lived in, and the characters are vividly realised. The underplayed theatricality of Nathan Lane's opening and closing narration, allied to a strong sense of the cinematic sets...
Published on 10 May 2007 by Trevor Willsmer

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chocolate Box Nickleby
Twenty years after the RSC took Nicholas Nickleby to Broadway this version from United Artists - I can easily imagine a young Douglas McGrath watching spellbound from the front row and vowing `One day, I'm gonna make a movie of this'.

This is a very American production - for all it's almost entirely British cast (of whom more anon), and it's great British...
Published 13 months ago by Alex Lyon


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtue - and audiences - rewarded, 10 May 2007
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Despite being overlooked on release, Douglas McGrath's wonderful 2002 version of Dickens' tale of good rewarded captures both the feel and the sound of Dickens remarkably well. This world is indeed lived in, and the characters are vividly realised. The underplayed theatricality of Nathan Lane's opening and closing narration, allied to a strong sense of the cinematic sets the perfect tone right from the start, and its reprise at the ending is almost a well-deserved bow from the filmmakers.

It's even good enough to overcome the void at its center that is Charlie Hunnam, clearly cast for his looks since acting isn't a strong point. Indeed, it's bizarre that in a film with so many Americans, Canadians and Australians in its cast, the most unconvincing accent comes from a Brit, but Geordie Hunnam's curiously Scouse accent sticks out like a sore thumb, not only at odds with the rest of his family but also making him sound like a bored Beatle throughout - a kind of benign George Harrison without the `tache or the personality. As another poster has pointed out, it's a long way from Master Nickleby's Devonshire whatever it's meant to be.

Thankfully his blandness is more than compensated for by some excellent work by Christopher Plummer's villainous uncle, avoiding the usual caricature the role inspires, and Jim Broadbent, Juliet Stevenson and Heather Goldenhersch (boasting such a perfect English accent I was surprised to find she was American) as the hideous Squeers family, embracing it and pulling it off magnificently, while Nathan Lane and Dame Edna Everidge are truly inspired casting as the open-hearted but financially challenged theatricals Mr and Mrs Crummles. There's fine work from Timothy Spall, Tom Courtenay, Phil Davis and, most surprising of all, even Edward Fox as well. It doesn't avoid the sentimentality but manages to turn it into genuine emotion, not least because no-one falls into the trap of wildly overplaying - even Dame Edna.

All in all an unexpectedly delightful, genuinely likeable, sincerely heartwarming film that deserved more success than it found - but as Mrs Crummles notes, in the great struggle between "those aged combatants art and commerce... art, it would appear from the receipts, is in its usual position of jeopardy."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chocolate Box Nickleby, 10 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Twenty years after the RSC took Nicholas Nickleby to Broadway this version from United Artists - I can easily imagine a young Douglas McGrath watching spellbound from the front row and vowing `One day, I'm gonna make a movie of this'.

This is a very American production - for all it's almost entirely British cast (of whom more anon), and it's great British locations, not just Luton Hoo and Somerset House, but the dear little cottage used in Bleasdale's Twist - it seems that Nicholas and Oliver's Mum grew up in the same house! - this Nickleby looks great, and so say all of us.

Jim Broadbent is just about the best in the cast as Squeers, with Juliet Stephenson lending excellent support as his horrid wife, but Tom Courtney is a very close second as a Newman Noggs so lovely that you want to take him home (but that's Mr Courtney all over, I'm afraid), while Christopher Plummer is properly chilly as Ralph, and Edward Fox suitably toxic as Sir Mulberry Hawk.

Smike? Not so good. I'm sure that Jamie Bell is a very good actor, but he's not being given his head in this - his Smike really isn't the broken misfit that the story requires - he's just a bit lame and lacking confidence (although his pause in Romeo and Juliet is wide enough to drive a coach and horses through); I'd prefer a Yorkshire accent too. And Brooker - why is he so mealy-mouthed? - this is Phil Davies they've paid good money for - why's he having to use the quiet pedal so much? Even Nathan Lane (fresh from playing Max Bialystock in the Producers - see ref to Christopher Benjamin in the RSC version) is a touch subdued as Mr Crummles, leaving the ham to Dame Edna Everage as his wife, but at least their English accents are screwed firmly in place.

Not always, unfortunately with Charlie Hunnam in the title role; he's plausibly nineteen, and brave and handsome, but with that blond bob he looks all too like a nearly grown up Little Lord Fauntleroy, and sometimes sounds like one too as his vowels tend to slide stateside whenever there isn't a British actor nearby to keep an ear on them - an effect that increases as the film goes on, especially when he's alone with Madelaine Bray - Anne Hathaway who, for a namesake of Mrs Shakespeare, really might know better! Once together, they seem dangerously close to declaring `Why gee! You're American too! Let's run away to the Colonies, where you can buy a decent coffee, and nobody talks about the weather, or tries to make you understand cricket!'

But the story is told very well, albeit with inevitable conflations; Madeleine's old suitor is Sir Mulberry, not Arthur Gride, and the Kenwigses are nowhere to be seen, nor that rat Mr Mantalini, but if I have an issue, it is with the creeping sense of Hollywoodyness that really ought to have been chased out with a broom the minute it nosed its way onto set.

Nicholas with his shirt unashamedly off - in front of a lady (well, Mrs Squeers) - it's unheard of; they used to put you in the stocks for that - and the aforesaid Mrs lighting the flogging* of Smike with a flaming torch? Behave. (Though, for some reason, she's very subdued when Nicholas finally thrashes Squeers - maybe it was the sight of the young man with his shirt off). The woods where Nicholas and Smike meet John Browdie seem to be straight out of Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and of course the Yorkshire Folk have to sing Ilkley Moor Bar Tat, because that's what they all sing in Yorkshire. It's something of a blessing that Brooker doesn't break into Chim Chimaree.

The darknesses could be darker and the bright spots a little less frosted with fairy dust; with the exception of Squeers (and David Bradley's cough and a spit as Walter Bray to be fair) this Dickens is curiously light on grotesques - even the `little bit peculiars' are somewhat thin on the ground. Tim Spall does a nice job as Charles Cheeryble (and gets star billing), while Gerard Horan doesn't quite match him in benign twinkling (and, rather meanly, does not).

There's a conspicuous lack of focus on Dickens' argument that it's the love of money above all that causes all the suffering; I can imagine some producer-shaped person arguing that hypocrisy really does just as much harm as greed, and maybe that's what Dickens really meant...

All together it is a series of well-made pieces rather than a fully-functioning whole; it's a bright, enthusiastic, engaging telling of a good tale, with some lovely performances, but there's not much sense of all these being components in a greater mechanism, each is rather a stand-alone, as if this Nickleby has been bought piecemeal off the shelf, rather than all being made anew - nothing *wrong* with it, yet a thing that is rather less than the sum of its parts.

I do like the Highland Fling at the end though - for all it looks straight off a shortbread tin lid.

*Mr Broadbent, it is obvious, I'm sorry to say, has never *really* caned anyone in his life.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So, so..., 6 Jan. 2004
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This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
To summarise, I enjoyed this film for what it was, a pleasant way to pass a few hours when you don't have anything better to do. If you want a high quality, serious adaption of Dickens, then don't see this one, see the ITV adaption made a few years ago with James D'Arcy and Charles Dance. The main critisms have to be the cast. Romola Garai as Kate Nickleby was simply terrible. Dressed 18th century, acting 2003. Totally mis-cast and put to shame by the superb Anne Hathaway. I had been told that Charlie Hunnam as Nicholas was by far the worst actor there. I disagree. Yes, his performance wasn't great, but you could see that he was trying hard. Just not quite good enough as an actor. Garai was worse by far.
Despite this, there were a few stars, notably the Squeers family (with the exception of the son). Evil, yet hysterical. Also Jamie Bell as Smike was fabulous, as was Nathan Lane as Mr Crumbles. I just loved Jim Broadbent as Mr Squeers, great to see Jim stepping out of the 'nice guy' role, yet still retained the affections of the audience.
See this film if only for Jim and Jamie, just be prepared to overlook the duds.
The DVD extras are almost worth the cost on their own. The 'cast on the cast' section is well worth a look.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No reservations, 12 Nov. 2004
By 
Michael Bo (Frederiksberg Denmark) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I dare anybody to watch this Dickens film through with dry eyes! Anybody that claims he or she did has a nonchalant way with the truth, if you ask me.
Director McGrath has made a number of tough, but altogether valid choices concerning what to skip and what to keep in his film of Dickens' marathon novel in order to keep the running time just barely within two hours. I can just see Dickens nodding benignly from up above. Charlie Hunnam is angelic, but also unsentimental as the gentle Nicholas, separated from his mother and sister, as after the death of his father they surrender themselves to the mercy of his cynical brother. The heart of the plot is Nicholas' friendship with the cripple Smike (Jamie Bell is brilliant, simply brilliant), a boy that he saves from the archetypal sadistic Dickensian orphanage.
McGrath's film is positively brimming with eloquent supporting actors, and in the late autumn of his career Christopher Plummer proves himself to be quite the actor in what may amount to his best part ever as the cruel uncle.
I can even recommend the extras on the extra DVD, they are to the point and for once not a complete waste of time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer delight, 14 May 2013
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This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
What a pleasure this film is. Just a joy to watch. Hugely entertaining with a great cast. Such a well-known story but as fresh as ever in this production. We have Charles Dickens to thank yet again for the array of colourful characters he seems to endlessly provide. Top marks to the Director, Douglas McGrath. What I notice in more recent productions of Dickens is the fluidity and pace they seem to take with what seems a lot more money to spend on such productions. Living as I do in New Zealand to see our neighbour from Australia on screen, Dame Edna, was an added treat She didn't manage to get 'Hello, possums' into the script!!!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointed, 8 May 2014
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This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
This is definitely NOT my favourite version of this film. Despite some quality actors, there was a cheap, inconsistent look about the film. Smike, for example, did not get new clothes throughout the whole film!! Must have been popular for the cast rather than the production. Have no inclination to watch it again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great film with evocative characters, 12 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I watched this film for entertainment purposes and thoroughly enjoyed it although obviously it's missing out chunks of Dickens' original book. I've since used short clips of this film to inspire writing with my Year 6 class and it has proved brilliant.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good DVD, 8 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Bought as daughter doing Dickens in school. Really liked watching the DVD - felt Charlie Hunman in the title role was miscast hence only 4 stars (Jamie Bell was excellent as always) but overall a great cast brought the characters to life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book club read., 4 Feb. 2014
By 
Mrs. Joyce Davis "avid reader" (London, U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Loved this film as it was the book club choice for December/January and although I have read the book the film was a great help
and it meant that my husband and I could watch it together. Wonderful cast.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I live this film, 2 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I gave this film a five star rating because it has a touching story line and a memorable cast of actors. I recommend this film to Charles Dickens lovers and to anyone who loves a tale of friendship and love
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Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003]
Nicholas Nickleby [DVD] [2003] by Douglas McGrath (DVD - 2003)
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