[Screen It]


(2002) (Charlie Hunnam, Jamie Bell) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Smoking Tense Family
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Drama: After the death of his father, a young man sets out to avenge the wrongs and dishonor that his rich, but evil uncle brings onto their family.
It's 19th century England and the Nickleby family has suffered a great loss in the death of patriarch Nicholas Sr. Accordingly, 19-year-old Nicholas Jr. (CHARLIE HUNNAM) believes it's up to him to care for his sister Kate (ROMOLA GARAI), and mother (STELLA GONET). Yet, he doesn't have the means to do that, so he packs up the family and they head to London where they hope that their uncle Ralph Nickleby (CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER), a successful investor, might be able to help them.

Ralph initially seems willing to do so, but his motives are soon questionable. He gives Kate a job serving as his hostess, but allows and seemingly even encourages his older guests, such as Sir Mulberry Hawk (EDWARD FOX), to come on to her in inappropriate ways. He also sends Nicholas off to the remote Dotheboys Hall where he's to be employed as the assistant to headmaster Wackford Squeers (JIM BROADBENT) and his wife (JULIET STEVENSON).

They're a nasty duo who belittle and beat the boys as well as their lone handicapped servant, Smike (JAMIE BELL). Nicholas, who befriends the poor boy, can only tolerate their behavior for a short while and soon flees with Smike. That, along with Nicholas's rejection of the romantic fantasies of Squeers' daughter, Fanny (HEATHER GOLDENHERSH), soon has the family writing to complain of Nicholas' actions that they, of course, mostly fabricate.

While on the road, Nicholas and Spike eventually run into Vincent Crummles (NATHAN LANE), his wife (BARRY HUMPHRIES), and their band of theatrical performers including Mr. Folair (ALAN CUMMING). It's not long before the two travelers are performing alongside them in Liverpool, but once Nicholas receives word about his sister, they're back to London to defend her honor and take care of Ralph.

To do so, he needs the help of the evil uncle's feisty servant, Newman Noggs (TOM COURTENAY), as well as that of a wealthy businessman, Charles Cheeryble (TIMOTHY SPALL), who, with his brother, has employed the young man. While setting his romantic sights on a young artist, Madeleine Bray (ANNE HATHAWAY), Nicholas sets out to avenge the dishonor that Ralph has brought their family, all while the ruthless uncle attempts to ruin Nicholas' life.

If they're fans of someone in the cast they might, but a period piece by Dickens might not be terribly enticing to most kids.
For thematic material involving some violent action and a childbirth scene.
  • CHARLIE HUNNAM plays an idealistic young man whose life is changed when his father dies and leaves him to support the rest of the family. During his journeys, he stops various wrongs, saves Smike, defends his sister's honor, falls for Madeleine and sets out to avenge the dishonor his uncle has brought the family.
  • CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER plays Nicholas' rich investor uncle who initially acts as if he's going to help the family after their loss, but has despicable plans for them. He then sets out to ruin Nicholas' life.
  • ROMOLA GARAI plays Nicholas' younger sister who must ward off the unwelcome advances of the much older and lecherous Mr. Hawk.
  • JAMIE BELL plays the young handicapped boy who works as the mistreated and abused servant for the Squeers. An orphan, he flees with Nicholas and eventually finds happiness with his family.
  • JIM BROADBENT plays the sadistic headmaster of a young boy's school who mistreats and beats his charges.
  • JULIET STEVENSON plays his equally sadistic and mean wife.
  • EDWARD FOX plays a lecherous older man who repeatedly comes on to Madeleine in inappropriate ways.
  • ANNE HATHAWAY plays the young woman who cares for her sick father and for whom Nicholas romantically falls.
  • TIMOTHY SPALL plays a wealthy businessman who employs Nicholas and then helps him in his quest to upend Ralph's life.
  • TOM COURTENAY plays Ralph's feisty servant who eventually helps Nicholas undermine him. He occasionally drinks.
  • NATHAN LANE plays the leader of a traveling theatrical troupe who befriends and employs Nicholas and Smike in their act.
  • BARRY HUMPHRIES plays his wife.
  • ALAN CUMMING plays one of their theatrical performers.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this drama that's been rated PG. Like many other Charles Dickens stories, this one is filled with both happy and dark moments. Among the latter are various scenes where a sadistic headmaster and his wife mistreat, belittle and/or strike various boys who've done nothing wrong.

    The title character then steps in and uses violence and threats thereof to stop that as well as an unrelated lecherous man's advances toward his sister. Another man hangs himself (only partially seen) and those scenes and others could be disturbing and/or suspenseful to some viewers, particularly younger ones.

    Other bad attitudes are present as are various forms of tense family material. Some of that involves additional thematic elements such as the loss of parents, orphans, suicide, childbirth (that's briefly seen without explicit nudity but some blood), and child beatings. Some sexually related dialogue is present, while a character who's supposed to be a woman is obviously played by a man. Meanwhile, various characters drink or smoke.

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

  • Noggs drinks from a flask.
  • Noggs mentions that a place has some good ale.
  • Mr. Squeers informs a young boy that his uncle took to drink.
  • Squeers might be intoxicated, but it's hard to tell.
  • Ralph's associates and/or friends drink.
  • A comment/joke is made about a father horse drinking port.
  • We see some champagne.
  • People drink before and after a play.
  • Various people drink in a tavern, including Squeers.
  • Noggs drinks from a flask.
  • Madeleine's father wants a bottle of wine.
  • Ralph pours himself a drink and then has more.
  • A comment is made that Noggs would sell his soul for a drink.
  • People raise a toast at a wedding.
  • We see Smike covering pig excrement.
  • We see a flashback of a woman whose legs are spread during childbirth (but nothing explicit beyond some blood on the sheets).
  • Ralph has a bad attitude for only looking out for himself and his wealth and not caring about what impact that has on others.
  • The Squeers have both types of attitudes for mistreating, belittling and even striking Smike and the boys under their control (they also take one of the boy's money).
  • Ralph allows his associates and/or friends to come on to Kate when she works as a hostess. He later takes her and her mom to the theater just so that Hawk (a much older man) can come on to Kate again. We then hear her struggling with him (but can't see what he's doing) and she runs out, claiming he's ruining her reputation. Later, Hawk and others laugh about all of that and her.
  • We hear that Smike was mistreated and kept in isolation as a child.
  • The Squeers family sends a letter to Ralph that lies about what happened between them and Nicholas (making him out to be the bad guy).
  • A person grabs Smike and puts a bag over his head while abducting him on the street. We then see that he's tied up alone in a room and a young boy is mean to him (even hitting him on the head).
  • Ralph sets out to ruin Nicholas' life further by tampering with his romantic life and ruining that of a young woman (whose father agrees to marry her off in exchange for his debts being forgiven).
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" could also be unsettling or suspenseful to some viewers (especially younger ones), but most teenagers and above probably won't find most of it too much that way.
  • We nearly see the umbilical cord of a newborn be cut.
  • A shot of sleeping kids in boxes might be unsettling to some younger viewers, as the kids nearly appear to be dead.
  • Mr. Squeers' appearance (with one eye permanently shut) and mean demeanor might be unsettling for some younger viewers.
  • A man rides up on horseback and appears ready to stop Nicholas and Smike from leaving Squeers' school, but he doesn't end up doing that.
  • Nicholas attempts to free Smike while another man distracts Squeers. During this, Nicholas nearly falls through some bad flooring and must avoid being detected by another person.
  • A character grows sicker and then becomes scared when he thinks he sees a scary figure from his childhood. That character eventually dies and that could be upsetting to some kids.
  • A man hangs himself (we don't see the actual act/death, but do see the lower part of his body swinging back and forth).
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Where the devil were you?"
  • A man hangs himself (we don't see the actual act/death, but do see the lower part of his body swinging back and forth).
  • Squeers surprises Smike.
  • Squeers suddenly grabs Smike.
  • A mild amount of dramatic and a little suspenseful music plays in the film.
  • None.
  • At least 2 uses of "My God" as exclamations.
  • We see a male infant's genitals.
  • Hawk comes on to Kate as she works as a hostess and repeatedly comments about "making love" to her and betting that she was thinking of the same thing (she wasn't and all while other men laugh about that as she gets more embarrassed and runs out crying).
  • We see that Mrs. Crummles is really an older and not particularly attractive man in drag, but don't know if the character is supposed to be a drag queen or not (or whether it implies a homosexual relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Crummles or is just a goofy casting choice).
  • A classic painting shows female full frontal nudity.
  • Nicholas and Madeleine passionately kiss.
  • We see a flashback of a woman whose legs are spread during childbirth (but nothing explicit beyond some blood on the sheets).
  • Several miscellaneous people smoke (including pipes).
  • The patriarch of the Nickleby family dies, leaving Nicholas to care for his mother and sister. We briefly see grieving family members at the funeral and Nicholas later cries over his father.
  • The family's uncle then turns out to be mean toward them.
  • Mr. Squeers informs a young boy that his grandmother died.
  • Smike wonders what faces will comfort him when he dies (since there are no happy ones from his childhood and that he doesn't know his family).
  • A character's father dies and she briefly grieves over him.
  • A man learns that the child he never claimed as his is now dead.
  • Dealing with losing a parent.
  • Adults who mistreat kids under their care.
  • Smike wondering what faces will comfort him when he dies (since there are no happy ones from his childhood and that he doesn't know his family).
  • Stage fright (Smike briefly has it).
  • The comment that no matter how full or empty one's purse, there is tragedy and that it's the one promise that life always fulfills. Thus, happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but delight in it when it comes.
  • The comment that family isn't defined by those with whom one shares blood, but by those for whom they would give their blood.
  • Mr. Squeers hits Smike and knocks him to the ground. Later, Mrs. Squeers hits him with a large spoon.
  • Mr. Squeers flogs a child for his father being late with his school payment.
  • Squeers suddenly grabs Smike and throws him to the floor.
  • Squeers repeatedly spanks a young boy with a switch or something similar.
  • Mrs. Squeers then grabs a kid and threatens him.
  • We see that the Squeers have re-captured and then tied Smike up to a post and Mr. Squeers says he'll beat him to an inch of his life. He then proceeds to strike him repeatedly on the back, but Nicholas finally intervenes. Squeers spits in Nicholas face and Nicholas then repeatedly strikes him with a rod or stick until the man is cowering in fear.
  • Nicholas confronts Hawk after he makes fun of his sister and her honor. The man then tries to hit Nicholas with a cane, but Nicholas blocks it, grabs him by the clothes and pushes him back against the wall where he appears ready to punch him. He then threatens the man not to do it again.
  • A person grabs Smike and puts a bag over his head while abducting him on the street. We then see that he's tied up alone in a room and a young boy is mean to him (even hitting him on the head).
  • A man hangs himself (we don't see the actual act/death, but do see the lower part of his body swinging back and forth).

  • Reviewed December 10, 2002 / Posted January 3, 2003

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