reviewed by Humby:

OLIVER TWIST is Roman Polanski’s follow-up to his Oscar winning THE PIANIST. There are many people that will call this a masterpiece and sing its praises. Polanski just won his first Oscar and it is okay for people to like him again. He gets the benefit of the doubt. The movie is based on the novel by literary favorite Charles Dickens. Ben Kingsley plays the infamous Fagin, a wildly charismatic evil bastard that everyone loves to hate. Alec Guinness garnered lots of award attention for playing this part in 1948, in the David Lean version of the film, and Kinglsey will most likely do the same.

This OLIVER TWIST, however, is not a great movie. We all know the story, know where it is going and how it will get there. Even if everyone hasn’t read the novel or seen previous adaptations, they should know the gist. Polanski’s direction is bland. There is nothing special here. It feels like a BBC movie, which is fine for the BBC, but I expect more from ‘one of the greatest directors around’. The movie is not great… it’s not even that good… it is fine. It left me underwhelmed and disappointed.
The cinematographer, Pawel Edelman (THE PIANIST, RAY) makes the film look pretty, but the world felt less real and more like a stage show. I never once worried about Oliver and how he would end up. I felt like I was in a theatre and was never transported the way that a really good movie can.
Kinsley is good as Fagin. He is fun and mean and plays a good bastard, but this is a showy role, designed to draw attention to itself. Is he great? No. He has been much better before and will be better again. It is a strong, solid performance.

Barney Clark is good as Oliver, but I couldn’t help but wish that it was someone like Freddy Highmore (FINDING NEVERLAND, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY)… someone that could instantly make you fall in love with him and then have the acting ability to take you anywhere he wants to. Clark is not there yet. Good not great.

You will no doubt hear great things about this film and it will be touted as an “Oscar movie”. Just keep in mind that if you don’t think that it is a great movie, it is okay. That doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate literature or that you have unsophisticated taste. It is not a great film. It will be forgotten in a brief time… and then it will just air on the BBC (where it belongs)


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