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NICHOLAS NICKLEBY

In Douglas McGrathís rendition of Charles Dickensís rambling third novel, the costumes, sets, and burnished cinematography ooze generic Dickensian quaintness, but McGrath canít keep up with the masterís extravagances in casting or plot. As Nicholas, a young man who finds himself the sole protector of his dithering mother and virginal sister when his father dies bankrupt, Charlie Hunnam is very blond and righteous (the novel has elements of seductiveness and rage that make his callowness worth shaping). More meat than potatoes are the villains: as Nicholasís treacherous Uncle Ralph, Christopher Plummer brings some Claudius-like ambiguity to the villainous stereotype; as Wackford Squeers, the grotesque headmaster of a gulag for unwanted boys, Jim Broadbent brings his customary glee. Things get a little rushed in the end: McGrath tries to squeeze 400 pages of text into about 40 minutes of screen time, and it makes you wonder what filmmakers have forgotten about adaptation in the six decades since David Lean first raised expectations.

BY PETER KEOUGH

Issue Date: January 2 - 9, 2003
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