Nicholas Nickleby Douglas McGrath

Nicholas Nickleby Douglas McGrath
Young Nicholas Nickelby and his family enjoy a comfortable life until they have the rug pulled out from them. First, by the family patriarch, who dies and leaves them penniless. Second, and most cruelly, by an uncle, a ruthless businessman, who they turn to in their time of need, that exploits them to further his interests. All this before the credits. Indeed! The American director Douglas McGrath does a competent enough job here. As is often the case with Hollywood versions of English classics, it is well-intentioned and polite to a fault. There is just enough grime on the Victorian sets and the perfect smattering of poverty — not enough to shake your soul but just enough to make you happy you were born when you were. There are also tons of big-eyed orphans and about as much malevolence as you would find in an episode of Murder She Wrote. You get what you expect with this production, which is, well, very little. This is Dickens were it an after-school special. There is even a double-wedding at the end that looks suspiciously like my prom. All of the stock-Dickensian characters make an appearance, including the sadistic schoolmaster (played brilliantly by Jim Broadbent — is this guy ever bad?), the crippled schoolboy of mysterious parentage (Jamie Bell), the virginal sister (Romola Gamai), the wealthy, heartless uncle (Christopher Plummer), the vaudeville actors (Nathan Lane, Dame Edna Everidge and Alan Cummings, respectively) and the hero that looks like he just stepped out of an American Idol casting call, which is part of the problem. Though McGrath may have made us believe Gwyneth as Emma, he can do little with this Nickleby (Charlie Hunnam), who is a little too vapid to tie the pieces together — a par retelling of the lengthy Dickens classic. For the extras there are almost as many special features as there are characters. There is an audio commentary by the director, a documentary that chronicles the making of the film, a featurette in which the cast riffs on the cast, a trend in DVD culture that is so self-congratulatory that it would make the weakest stomach turn, and the requisite photo gallery. For the techies there is a "View on the Set" multi-angle feature that will satisfy. Extras: commentary; documentary; more. (MGM)