Starring: Ron Moody, Mark Lester, Shani Wallis
Director: Carol Reed
Running Time: 153 mins
Oliver! is a British film about a young orphan, expelled from his orphanage for wanting more food, who travels to London to find his fortune, and encounters a group of boys who are trained by an old man to be pickpockets.
This, along with The Sound Of Music, is probably THE beloved musical classic. It’s an uplifting and hugely entertaining story, filled with emotion and fun throughout, in terms of its plot, action, and fantastic musical numbers.
However, while it is a lovely Sunday afternoon watch, it’s not completely happy. It feels like quite a gritty and often depressing story about a Victorian orphan’s fall into despair and crime, but, luckily, it’s disguised as a fun musical, and that creates the main part of the atmosphere, while the grittier context serves for some extra drama.
Despite that, this is a perfect film for all the family. I remember adoring this at a very young age, the darker elements never put me off, and it was the songs and the adorable and hugely nice main characters, namely Oliver Twist and The Artful Dodger, that made this such a classically loved watch.
In fact, this has a very similar character structure to a film like The Jungle Book. There’s your main two characters who you can’t help loving no matter what, a few others who may have some scary, negative qualities, and then the pure baddie (who, in this film, is pretty petrifying), so that shows that it can definitely be suitable for everyone.
Then, there’s the songs. One of my complaints about a similar film, My Fair Lady, was that it really dragged on for three long hours. This is nearly as long, however what really helps it whiz by so enjoyably is the plethora of brilliant musical numbers.
They’re all ultimate classics that everyone knows, and singing along to them is so easy that you do consider yourself one of the family amongst the characters in this film, allowing you to feel it, understand it and enjoy it even better.
There’s only one problem. The first part of the film is a pure musical, which is so entertaining, but the second act takes on the form of a grittier thriller. There are still some songs, but I was enjoying the musical in the first act so much that I was a little upset when it changed format, but nonetheless, it’s still a great film, and that’s why it gets a 7.8.