Sunday, August 22, 2010
Oliver Twist -- 1997
Not Rated ('G')
My Rating: 4 Stars
“Is stealing the work the boys do?”
“Uhhh. No! More like... redistributing the wealth.”
Young Oliver Twist was an orphan. He had been born in a poorhouse, his mother dying as soon as she'd given birth to him. The only clue to her identity was the golden locket she had in her hand when she died. This was to become the boy's beacon through the coming years.
The mistress of the poorhouse was a mean old hag who loved to torment the children in her care, but she promised that if Oliver was good, she would let him have his locket when he was twelve. The day before his twelfth birthday, Oliver was forced by a bully to commit the worst sin in the Mistress' book: ask for more food when he'd finished his breakfast. She was only too glad to throw him out because this meant she could keep the locket... and have one less child to feed to boot. But she misjudged the boy. He was not about to leave without it. He snuck back into to the place that night and took back what was his... plus a little chicken for his supper.
Then, he was off to London to find the address engraved in his locket. He walked for miles, hungered and weary. Finally he snatched a ride in the back of a pig cart and was driven straight into the heart of the great city. Once there, he had no idea where to go. He hadn't thought London would be so immense. He wandered about in a daze, looking at the people, animals, merchants and their ware. Just then, his stomach alerted him to the fact that one little stand had apples for sale in a bucket. His stomach said yes. But the Mistress of the poorhouse had raised him to be honest if nothing else, and his heart said no. His stomach won.
Just as he was reaching for the fruit, someone caught him around the shoulders and said in a very put on Cockney accent (Lol!), “Oh no you don't! You were going to go and get yourself caught and then there goes the market and what would happen to hard working, dishonest chaps like me?” Thus, Artful Dodger entered Oliver Twist's life. Here was a boy who had been raised to be a professional thief. But in spite of his cynical attitude towards life and the people in it, Dodger became Oliver's first true friend.
Dodger saw Oliver Twist as a boy with no home, no food and no friends. A perfect candidate for their gang of boy thieves. Over the next few months, Oliver was carefully instructed in the fine art of thievery... and how a good person, regardless of occupation, never peaches on his friends. But in spite of the new family he's come to be a part of, all the food he can eat and the kindness of his new friends, Oliver still feels a yearning to find his true family.
What I Liked:
1: Elijah Wood made this movie. Completely. Watching the conflicting emotions on the face of the character of Dodger was a joy. That is true acting.
2: Although this movie is truly a children's version, it was good. I wouldn't go as far to say that it was wonderful but it tells the story well enough and it's clean. Violence happens (one evil man meets his end on a rope and a good girl gets killed) but it's very toned down. Since the story hinges on these happenings, you can't really do without them.
What I Didn't Like:
1: I would have liked them to include more about Oliver's inheritance and the conditions in his father's will. Why is it that Oliver can't ever become a thief, no matter how hard they try to push him into it? And why is that so essential to the story (other than for good morals)?
2: On the same subject, there were some unexplained things that I wouldn't have understood, if I hadn't known the story before.
3: It isn't a movie I would watch a second time (except for the experience of watching it with my children).
If you want your children to watch a movie based on a classic, this is a good one. There is nothing bad in it. Thievery is shown in a new light... and the viewer is still left with the feeling of pity. Keep in mind that Dickens wrote allegorically sometimes. :-) It makes the story very funny.
“Goodness is always rewarded.”