A rollicking and quite entertaining adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, The Pickwick Papers isn't afforded the same respect as such other Dickens adaptations as David Lean's Great Expectations, but it's a sweet and charming film that offers many pleasures. Pickwick, like much of Dickens, is quite episodic and lacks the strong plotline of some of his other works; as a result, there's not as much "punch" to Pickwick. It's also unabashedly comic in tone; there's some serious social commentary in it, but it's masked by delightful buffoonery and even slapstick. This makes Pickwick perfect "light" entertainment, a lovely way to pass a summer evening when something to tickle the funnybone is desired that doesn't require a tremendous amount of thought. It's very well done, and Noel Langley's adaptation is about as fine as could be done of such a lengthy book, and as a director Langley has a sprightly tone that works well for the material. As the title character, James Hayter is jolly and kindly and a perfect tour guide; he has a hard time, however, in keeping Nigel Patrick from stealing the picture. There are also welcome contributions from Hermione Gingold, Hermione Baddeley and many others.
by Craig Butler review