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Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

Every family needs a hero

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 132 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

Apparently the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of this Charles Dickens tale bypassed the nine hour mark. I'm hazarding a guess that to read the novel itself would take even longer. All of which makes the 132 minute running time of this thesp-packed mainstream adaptation seem a whiz in comparison, and makes me feel ever-so-slightly guilty about having to say that it drags on a little.

To be honest, this type of stuff just isn't my cup of tea, but if period dramas are your thing then you could certainly do much worse than give this a butcher's. The story – as the title suggests – concentrates on the life and times of Nicholas Nickleby (Charlie Hunnam), the 19-year-old country boy forced to provide for his mum (Stella Gonet) and sister Kate (Romola Garai) when his dad (Andrew Havill) kicks the bucket.

The hapless threesome end up travelling to London to seek the somewhat grudging help of rich old meanie Uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer). Before long Nick is sent to teach at a boys' school run by the downright nasty Mr and Mrs Squeers (Jim Broadbent and Juliet Stevenson, both with tongue residing in cheek), where he befriends lovable cripple Smike (Jamie Bell). After leaving the school with Smike in tow, Nick gets into a series of scrapes and even tries his hand at acting, before eventually returning to his Uncle's for a square-go and saving his sis from the wandering-fingered attentions of a dirty old man (Edward Fox). There's also love, marriage, swindling, scheming, suicide and downright ungentlemanliness thrown into the bargain.

It's basically a feel-good film, and why the devil not? Though Hunnam is a tad unconvincing, the rest of the cast are of tried and tested nature and many play it firmly for laughs. In fact, it's testament to director Douglas McGrath and the participating ensemble that such drama and emotion can be provoked from a set of characters who, to be totally honest, are pretty shallow. And, if you don't know the story, be warned that the climax revolves around ridiculous coincidences which verge on turning the whole thing into nothing more than an exercise in silliness.

It's Got: Some UK TV favourites including Barry Humphries (credited, strangely, as Dame Edna Everage) and Lucy Davies from The Office.

It Needs: A stronger leading man – Hunnam struggles to cut the mustard,


A nicely put together period drama, with a surprising amount of humour and an impressive ensemble cast.