Nicholas Nickleby (PG)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/06/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 130 mins

Star-studded adaptation that’s pretty to look at but nothing special, hampered largely by Hunnam’s slightly off-kilter performance.

Writer-director Douglas McGrath previously took on Jane Austen’s Emma and here he turns his attentions to Dickens’ lengthy classic, complete with the all-star cast treatment.

However, though it’s all very pretty to look at, it’s a bit patchy and definitely overlong, as well as suffering under the weight of a miscast Charlie “Queer As Folk” Hunnam in the title role.

Veritable Parade Of Famous Types

The story details Hunnam’s reluctant placement as a schoolmaster at Dotheboys Hall, under the tyrannical reign of Wackford and Mrs Squeers (Jim Broadbent and Juliet Stevenson). From there, Nicholas rescues abused, disabled Smike (Jamie Bell in “urchin” make-up) and the two of them escape to London, hooking up with a troupe of actors (led by Nathan Lane) along the way.

Once in London, Nicholas realises he has to rescue his sister (Romola Garai from I Capture The Castle) from the clutches of Evil Uncle Ralph Nickleby (Christopher Plummer) and he also finds himself falling for a girl he meets (Anne Hathaway from The Princess Diaries).

The main problem is that Hunnam isn’t really a confident enough actor – he’s constantly over-shadowed by the more colourful actors around him. Once or twice he’s good (mostly in his Righteous Anger scenes) but most of the time he just looks like he’s trying too hard.

Similarly, Jamie Bell is just a little too loveable as Smike, who is meant to be a far more damaged, almost animal-like character. Bell just looks like he needs a bath and a decent pair of corrective shoes.

Too Long But Not Too Bad

However, the rest of the film is fine, although it’s a good 25 minutes too long. The production design is good and doesn't stoop to the usual "Rat on a stick, sir?" type clichés. Well, not often, anyway.

Basically, it's worth seeing for the parade of actors, though it's Christopher Plummer's movie, as he comfortably steals every scene he’s in. The theatre actors, unsurprisingly, provide the best bits - particularly Barry Humphries as Nathan Lane's "wife".

Alan Cumming is under-used, but has a decent running joke. And fortunately, the Spallness Factor is very low. Similarly, Romola Garai is delightful as Nickleby’s sister and will almost certainly become a star of Winslet proportions.

In short, this is a watchable, if undemanding adaptation of the sort that will happily fill a rainy Sunday afternoon.

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Content updated: 21/05/2019 14:20

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