Oliver! (1968) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –

Many people already know the basic gist of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. A young orphan named Oliver asked for more, which changed his entire life. The original novel has stood the test of time because of its memorable characters and its biting social commentary. Many children also know the basic story even if they are unable to read the lengthy novel. Because of its timeless qualities, Carol Reed was bold enough to tell this beloved story through song and dance. The final result is one of the best movie musicals of all time.

A Toast

This film features all of the qualities of a major Hollywood musical. It has Oscar-winning production design that captures the essence of nineteenth century London. It has marvelous Oscar-nominated costumes. It even allowed Onna White to earn an honorary Oscar for outstanding choreography that works well with its adapted film score. Columbia Pictures also heavily emphasized the letter “O” during this film’s Oscar campaign because it is the first letter of the title, the main character’s first name, and the coveted Academy Award. It is safe to say that this film had the word “Oscar” written all over it.

Beer Two

Unfortunately, some critics would say that this film is somewhat overrated. The film has a total of 14 songs, but some of them sound a bit corny. For example, the opening number called “Food, Glorious Food!” is simply about all of the kids in an entire orphanage wanting gruel. Some of the songs might also not be as memorable as other songs in the movie musical canon, like Barbra Streisand’s signature number, “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” from Funny Girl (1968). The film’s G-rating is also a bit questionable because this film features brief violence as well as scenes involving pick-pocketing. Those elements are necessary in order to stay faithful to Dickens’ novel, but some might argue that this family musical is not really that family-oriented. Ron Moody might have received a “Best Actor” nomination for playing Fagin, but his character is not exactly the best role model for young children watching this film. Some people have also complained on YouTube videos that this movie traumatized them when they saw it as children. Therefore, this film might not exactly be the “Best Picture” of 1968 after all.

Verdict

Charles Dickens wrote some of the greatest novels of all time, and film adaptations of his work ended up being some of the greatest films of all time. Examples include David Lean’s productions of Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948). Oliver! was actually the last movie musical to win “Best Picture” until Chicago (2002). Perhaps the somewhat mature content of this film has allowed filmmakers to take bigger risks with its musicals that eventually led to films like Les Misérables (2012), Into the Woods (2014), and La La Land (2016). Oliver Twist might have asked for more, and the Hollywood studios eventually did produce more musicals within the twenty-first century. Thanks for asking!

Oliver! (1968) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: during every alcoholic reference

Take a Drink: during every somewhat violent reference (which includes physical action and references within the song lyrics)

Drink a Shot: during all of the 14 musical numbers

About Alex Phuong

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