Oliver Twist (2005)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Childhood Drama, Period Film, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Sep 23, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 130 min.  |   Countries - Czechia , France , United Kingdom , Italy   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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The mother of all Victorian orphan epics gets remade for the umpteenth time, as Oliver Twist goes under the lens of acclaimed filmmaker Roman Polanski for this 2005 release. Polanski's update of the classic Dickens tale is highly competent, yet wholly unnecessary -- which may have more to do with the era of its release than any objective judgment of its cinematic worth. By 2005, straightforward period pieces had lost their box-office clout, so a tale retold many times -- and not that differently this time from the others -- seemed to have little raison d'être. Almost across the board, critics lauded Oliver Twist, but taken as the follow-up to Polanski's best director win for The Pianist (2002), it can't help but fall short in both urgency and distinction. As ever, Polanski is excellent at establishing a period design and giving it a rough and dark authenticity. No character embodies this commitment to detail more than Ben Kingsley as the cretin Fagin, uglied up with makeup, prosthetics, and a creaky lowlife's accent. The performances of Kingsley and several others are a credit to the production. But two key performances prevent Oliver Twist from being as effective as it could have been. As the murderer Bill Sykes, Jamie Foreman is more mean than frightening, while Barney Clark is too impassive to make much of an impact in the title role. It's a good metaphor for the film on the whole. While beyond reproach technically, Oliver Twist can't make a thematic argument for its own existence by bringing any relevant new interpretations to the forefront. Dickens enthusiasts and the dwindling period piece crowd will no doubt find Polanski's update worthy, but as for any future attempts to film the definitive Oliver Twist -- please, sir, we don't need any more.