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Nicholas Nickleby

By Luisa F. Ribeiro | Posted

Do we really need a new version of Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens' sprawling saga of Victorian woe and triumph, after the spirited and sprawling 1982 British TV miniseries. Perhaps not, but writer-director Douglas McGrath (Emma) has all but done the impossible with Nickleby's latest screen treatment. The filmmaker pruned and trimmed the saga to a tidy 132 minutes yet left the story's essence--with mostly agreeable results. Nineteen-year-old Nicholas (Queer as Folk's hunky Charlie Hunnam), his sister, and mother are left destitute upon the death of the family patriarch, forcing them to turn for help to their uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer), who uses the family members for his own benefit. In order to get Nicholas out of the way, Ralph sends him to that horror of all Victorian dramas, a distant, beleaguered school, this one run by the wicked Wackford Squeers (a dastardly Jim Broadbent). There, Nicholas befriends the disabled Smike (Jamie Bell), with whom he eventually flees to join a traveling revue and eventually reunite the family. Hunnam is unable to humanize Nicholas' almost impossibly good and pure nature but provides sufficient eye candy. Admittedly, it's tough going against the a cast featuring Nathan Lane, Dame Edna Everidge aka Barry Humphries, Alan Cumming, Tom Courtenay, and the deliciously frosty Plummer. McGrath's Nicholas Nickleby is a pleasantry, proving that everything old really can be new again.

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