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Interesting tale told by a good cast despite being a little slow at times
Robert Nobel is a 12 year old schoolboy polite, well-spoken and friendly. However, he is bullied by schoolmates and called 'Norbert No-Bottle'. When his parent's split up he is further damaged made worse by his father planning to remarry. Robert mistakenly volunteers to take part in a story telling campaign in a local old people's home, where he meets an old lady that will change his life forever.
This adaptation of the award winning children's book was shown in one feature-length version on BBC1 rather than the version in parts described on this site. I sat to watch this despite not really knowing what it was about and I was surprised to see how solid a story it was considering it was aimed at kids. The drama is based around Robert overcoming himself and also doing the bidding of Edith (who may be forcing Robert to become her dead son), it is sinister at times without being frightening, slightly supernatural without being too dark or brooding. Of course the downside of the film is that it is too slow at times the first hour especially seemed to drag and lacking a strong enough script to base this amount of time on characters over actions. That said, once the plot starts proper it is interesting and involving.
What helps it even more is a great cast of child actors several of whole will be instantly recognisable on either side of the Atlantic for their appearance in a couple of big films. Sangster is better known for playing Hitler in a miniseries and for playing 'cute kid' in Love Actually (a role I'm sure he won on his own merits and without the help of Uncle Grant). Here he is the key role for the film and he plays it really well not being overly cute and actually developing as a character across the film. Johnson plays his character with the same cockney cheek that he did in Shanghai Knights although happily he is a little less annoying here as he actually has a character to speak of. His performance is much better and he shows it in several key moments. Hancock is also good and generally the support cast of adults and children all do well.
Overall this special will not make me read the book as I felt this told a good enough story without me digging further. The fact that it is very professionally done and supported by many really good child performances really helps to work with an interesting story even if it is a little predictable and slow at times.
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