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'Nicholas Nickleby' surprisingly entertaining

[an error occurred while processing this directive] By BILLY NORRIS

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 20, 2003


Nicholas Nickleby

  • Rating: PG

Summary: This is an adaptation of a classic and lengthy Charles Dickens novel. Nineteen-year-old Nicholas Nickleby (Charlie Hunnam) becomes the head of his family after his father dies, leaving him, his mother (Stella Gonet) and his sister, Kate (Romola Garai), without enough money to live on. So, they go to his wealthy uncle, Ralph (Christopher Plummer), in London to see if he will help the destitute family. Nicholas' mother and sister stay in London, but Ralph is trying to marry Kate off to one of his rich cronies (to whom he owes a large sum of money). Nicholas is sent to work as a teacher for Wackford Squeers (Jim Broadbent), the abusive headmaster of a dilapidated school for poor boys. He soon feels sympathy for an abused, crippled servant named Smike (Jamie Bell) and decides they both need to escape the damaging environment of the school before it kills his new friend. When Nicholas returns to London, he finds that Ralph wants nothing more than to take advantage of his family's situation and make them miserable. But Nicholas aspires to pull his family back together and regain some of their wealth, so he sets out to take revenge on his oppressive uncle.

My view: Going into it, I expected this film to be archaic and monotonous (especially with a hefty 130-minute run time), with not much to offer in the way of valuable entertainment. I was wrong once again. This was actually an extremely well-cast, well-acted movie. The characters were very authentic, and their attention to the details of the mid 1800s was easily perceptible. Humor played a much larger role in the dialogue than I expected. Casting Nathan Lane as Vincent Crummles, the head of an eccentric traveling theatrical troupe (that also included Alan Cumming as Mr. Folair) was brilliant. Sarcasm was used sparingly, yet effectively, throughout the film, and the story line was very elaborate!

Recommendations: This flick will probably be a tough sell to most teenagers, and it certainly won't excite the majority of kids, but it's absolutely deserving of a chance because it is truly an excellent movie.

  • Grade: A

-- Billy Norris, 15, is in the ninth grade at Seminole High School and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

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