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I feel sorry for anyone who makes his first acquaintance with Dickens' classic through this ill-conceived version that tampers irreparably with the original story.
The first mistake was hiring a screenwriter best-known for work on a British soap to write the script. She felt obligated to make it more "hip" by inserting words and dialog that aren't appropriate to the time period, and by completely twisting parts of the plot and some of its main characters. For instance, the comic subplot of Bumble and Corny leaves out some of the best scenes, and instead "sexes up" the Widow Corny. And Oliver himself is changed from a lost innocent into a smart-mouthed punk. (PS - I know that Corny is spelled with an "e" but IMDb's spell- checker keeps changing it.)
The casting doesn't help. Timothy Spall, who is wonderful in almost everything he does, never seems to settle in to the character of Fagin, and the make-up and hair artists make him look like an ugly fat woman most of the time. Nancy has changed color, Bill Sykes is nothing more than a yobbo, not the looming villain so well-portrayed by Oliver Reed in the musical version. Even the reliable Edward Fox turns in a two-dimensional performance as Brownlow.
The music score is also horrendous, jumping from style to style but never anything remotely Victorian. (Electric guitar? Banjo? Steel drums?)
I don't have a problem with making new versions of classics. I also don't have a problem with updating classics, as in WEST SIDE STORY or even Baz Luhrman's ROMEO + JULIET. But what we have in OLIVER TWIST is a warped classic, a hack's idea of making a great plot more palatable for the 21st-century audience. You can change the ambiance or the costumes, but don't give us a new story and claim it's a classic. This type of bilge is running rampant in current British productions (Wuthering Heights, Marple, etc.). Seek out an older version for something that resembles the original, or at least holds the original in high regard. The director and screenwriter for this production obviously see Dickens as raw material to be improved upon. The joke is on them.
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