Director Roman Polanski gives one of Charles Dickens' best-loved stories a new and dynamic interpretation in this period drama. Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) is a young orphan in Victorian England who has been sent to a dank workhouse run by the miserly Mr. Bumble (Jeremy Swift) when it is learned there is no one to care for him. When Oliver dares to ask for more gruel, he is sent away to live with an undertaker, who treats him poorly. Preferring life on the streets to the treatment he's been receiving, Oliver runs away to London, where he falls in with the Artful Dodger (Harry Eden), a youthful pickpocket. The Artful Dodger is one of a gang of young thieves overseen by Fagin (Ben Kingsley), a paternal but sinister criminal mastermind. While Oliver finds a home of sorts with Fagin and his young cohorts, he also falls into a dangerous life made all the more threatening by the presence of Fagin's menacing overlord, Bill Sykes (Jamie Foreman). Oliver Twist was Polanski's first feature film after enjoying a major career resurgence following the international success of his Oscar-winning World War II drama The Pianist. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
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I recommend this movie. Don't be scared by the PG-13 rating. This was a good version of Oliver Twist to compare with the musical Oliver! Oliver in the musical was unbelievably cutenot here. Fagin isn't the flawed saint portrayed by Ron Moody. Instead, Kingsley's Fagin is little better than the other thieves. Bill Sikes is still bad, but not as unbelievably scummy as Oliver Reed. The thing I liked best was that London was grimey and disgusting as I believe it was in the 19th century. The thing I disagreed with was Polanski's idea to ditch the whole Mr. Brownlow as a relative of Oliver, if no other reason, we miss the Beedle's great "If the law believes that, then the law is an ass". line.
Visually the movie really caught and held my interest. The amount of detail in the sets was fantastic. However the plot moved along so swiftly and superficially that I never really got connected to any of the characters. Also the dialogue contained obscure and possibly fabricated 1838 'street slang' that added more confusion than authenticity.