Although Roman Polanski's newest movie, Oliver Twist, at first seems to have a winning formula, it falls short in the end. Polanski (The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby) stays loyal to Charles Dickens' 1838 masterpiece, and he makes some interesting visual choices along the way. For instance, Polanski starts and ends the film with black and white drawings that fade out to filmic pictures.

But nice artistic touches cannot prevent the film from being uninteresting and unusually slow. Twist initiates a dull pattern of events from almost the first frame; between scenes of young Oliver (Barney Clark) crying every five minutes, the story simply introduces an endless number of minor characters, to no great effect. Moreover, the last sequence of the film transitions from a heavily depressing turn of events into a highly implausible feel-good finale.

Ben Kingsley (who won an Oscar for playing the title role in Gandhi) is the only redeeming feature in the film, but even he becomes irritating with his hobo attire, scraggly red-gray hair and mousy accent. Combined with the vomit-inducing voices of Oliver's thieving young friends (one of whom played Nibs in 2003's Peter Pan), Oliver Twist manages to suck the life out of an old school favorite.


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