Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

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Released 14-Sep-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Audio Commentary-Douglas McGrath (Director)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 127:12 (Case: 132)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Douglas McGrath

Starring Stella Gonet
Andrew Havill
Henry McGrath
Hugh Mitchell
Poppy Rogers
Jessie Lou Roberts
Charlie Hunnam
Romola Garai
Tom Courtenay
Christopher Plummer
Anne Hathaway
Jim Broadbent
Angela Curran
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Rachel Portman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Adapting beloved works of literature must rank as about the most difficult undertaking a filmmaking team can agree to. Along with the inherent difficulties of translating, compressing, amalgamating and tweaking page upon page of what is often complex, frequently idiosyncratic, sometimes 'unfilmable' story (The Lord of the Rings anyone?) must be terrifying thoughts plaguing screenwriters and directors that they may be charged with destroying or mutilating beyond recognition the masterwork of a literary giant or doyen. Additionally, in removing that sacrosanct, private, explorative autonomy enjoyed by individual readers and daring to visually represent that which exists only in the interpretative imaginings of readers, filmmakers run the very real risk of alienating what are potentially the film's most loyal audience members. Yet, such acclaimed directors as Lasse Hallstrom and Anthony Minghella have made films adapted from novels the staple of their creative output, with varying degrees of success - from the brilliant The Talented Mr. Ripley and What's Eating Gilbert Grape? to the less than completely successful The English Patient and The Shipping News. Douglas McGrath is another such director, having previously directed Gwyneth Paltrow (mother of Apple for those who care) in an adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, also starring Toni Collette and Greta Scacchi. He now turns his attention to arguably the greatest of all novelists in the English language, Charles Dickens. Coincidentally (I believe), but nonetheless appropriately, for his third film as a director McGrath selected the third novel of Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby.

    Like many of Dickens' wonderful works, Nicholas Nickleby is replete with colourful and engaging characters, served in this trimmed down but nonetheless idiomatically faithful and spirited production by an exemplary cast. Veteran British thespians populate the screen: Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent as the vicious and cowardly Mr Wackford Squires, Timothy Spall as one half of the cheery Cheeryble brothers and Christopher Plummer, in perhaps the most brilliantly unsettling portrayal of Ralph Nickleby, the title character's wealthy and uncaring uncle, the cinema has afforded us. The embarrassment of riches continues with the dynamic theatre duo of Vincent and Mrs Crummles, played by the extraordinary Nathan Lane and Barry Humphries, the Australian born genius whose Les Patterson, Sandy Stone and of course Dame Edna Everage have enthralled audiences across the world. Whilst perhaps lacking the class of their older co-stars, the vital roles of Nicholas, Madeline Bray and Smike are energetically performed by Charlie Hunnam (whose natural English accent seems to have taken on a little transatlantic colour), Anne Hathaway and Jamie Bell (of Billy Elliot fame) respectively.

    Elegantly shot, with a true sense of Dickensian England and aided by a suitably charming Rachel Portman score, this is a worthy addition to the oeuvre of literary adaptations. Those who have read and enjoyed the book will find much to savour here, whilst those unfamiliar with Dickens' enchanting world are likely to be captivated by this, that rare breed of story told with touching sentiment but without gushing sentimentality.

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Transfer Quality


    This is a fine looking transfer that does justice to the thoughtfully considered cinematography of acclaimed British cameraman Dick Pope, who shot the sumptuous Mike Leigh Gilbert and Sullivan production, Topsy Turvy. It is not without some faults but considering the film's relatively low budget the creative team are to be commended on making it look like it was more expensive to make than it was (much like Kevin Reynolds' The Count of Monte Cristo).

    It is presented in its intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, and at every point one is thankful for that fact - every inch of the wide frame is used, and the filmmaker's eye for detail is expertly attended to. Blacks are clean and clear, with only minimal low level noise.

    Colours, thankfully, are expertly presented. A wide palette is employed and full justice is done to the extravagant costumes of the theatre, the verdant greens of the countryside and the bleaker tones of lowly London, so expertly described by Dickens in his novels. Skin tones are realistic.

    Sharpness is uniformly excellent. Grain is relatively rare. Film to video artefacts present something more of a problem. There are some MPEG artefacts present, notably at 1:57 and 46:36, and on large stretches of single colour, and aliasing is apparent in a few scenes, for example at 51:42. Film artefacts are negligible.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    We are presented with three audio tracks (including the audio commentary): English Dolby Digital 5.1, interestingly and rarely a Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 track and the commentary in 2.0 Dolby Stereo. Audio sync is well handled for the Czech track, although I can't speak for the accuracy of the translation.

    There is some good use of the surround channels, including the subwoofer, for creating ambience in the city scenes, but the score is what is primarily sounding from the rear speakers. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, although there was a problem with audio sync at 93:57.

    As mentioned, Rachel Portman's score is a delight, if not overly adventurous. One can hear traces of her earlier work, particularly from The Cider House Rules, but this is an engaging work of film composition.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio commentary by director Douglas McGrath

    The sole extra on this disc is an audio commentary from the Texan director Douglas McGrath. I mention his southern American roots merely out of interest, for one normally expects adaptations of the likes of Austen, Bronte or Dickens to remain within the clutches of their compatriots. However, what it does eloquently illustrate is the universal appeal of Dickens' writing. McGrath speaks articulately and passionately about the project and is obviously a filmmaker of intellect, wit and good taste. The commentary is detailed, interesting and delves into innumerable facets of the filmmaking process. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this was, for me personally, the best audio commentary given by a director I have listened to.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 release misses out on a few extras found on the Region 1 edition.

    The Region 1 release misses out on:

    The extras we miss out on are, according to reviews of the Region 1 disc, fairly insubstantial, so I would tend towards the cheaper local product with its improved video presentation (owing to the inherent superiority of PAL formatting). If you are an extras addict however, the Region 1 may be for you. I'll call it a draw.


    Nicholas Nickleby is a delightful adaptation of a beloved Dickens novel. Recommended almost unreservedly.

    The video transfer is excellent.

    The audio is perfectly suited to the needs of the film.

    The single extra is an insightful and entertaining audio commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
The plot synopsis of this review doesn't actually include a synopsis..... - tiggers (bio...organism?)
Plot synopsis - Scott M (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Thanks -