Dickens' classic tale of an orphan boy in London, with singing (2 hr 33 min)
While much of the film is suitable for younger children the ending gets grim, as Bill Sykes beats Nancy to death (offscreen, in silhouette). Following an intense rooftop chase, Sykes is shot and falls dead, dangling from a rope. Otherwise a bit of hunger and loneliness seem to be the primary downsides of life as an orphan in Victorian times. The character of Fagin has been scrubbed of the most obvious anti-Semitism of the novel, but still. There is some implied awareness of Nancy as a prostitute. Children drinking alcohol. Also the movie is hecka long.
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For more singing Dickens you could try Scrooge, made just two years later. David Lean’s 1948 Oliver Twist is excellent but dark and troubling in its portrayal of Fagin (Alec Guinness). There’s also the (unremarkable) Disney animated cats-and-dogs adaptation Oliver and Company.
Songs to Download
“Food, Glorious Food”
“I’d Do Anything”
Always a chance we'll meet somebody to foot the bill
Don’t hate Oliver! because it won Oscars for Best Picture and Director the year they could have been awarded to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Stanley Kubrick. There are reasons to dislike it on its merits, such as the “gaping cognitive dissonance between subject matter and genre” (Ty Burr). Or the fact that the poor young actor in the lead can neither act nor sing (his vocals are clearly dubbed). But Oliver is merely the character things happen to. The real stars of Oliver! are Ron Moody as Fagin (a role he owned in the West End and on Broadway) and Jack Wild (from H. R. Pufnstuf) as the Artful Dodger. Both are terrific. And the songs themselves are melodic, catchy, and designed to be sung with gusto by Cockney-sounding children. (It’s only too bad some of the arrangements feel as if they’ll never come to an end.) Given the film’s length you might consider a family matinee, or breaking up the movie over two nights. There’s an Intermission built in after “Be Back Soon.” (The DVD even has to be flipped to the other side.) —