Oliver Twist is a 1997 television movie produced by Walt Disney Television, based on the popular novel of the same name by Charles Dickens. It aired during The Wonderful World of Disney. One of the lesser known film versions of the book, it starred veteran Richard Dreyfuss as Fagin, Elijah Wood as the Artful Dodger, and Alex Trench as Oliver Twist.
As in most film adaptations of this book, Monks, Oliver's half-brother, is not in the film. There are other changes as well. The bookseller does not testify for Oliver at his trial, but Rose Maylie does. Most of the changes are minor, but a major one is that when Oliver is taken in by Fagin's gang he himself, and not the Widow Corney, is in possession of his mother's locket, and Oliver has come to London, not just to seek his fortune, but to discover his true identity. Mr. Bumble is only in one scene, and the Widow Corney's role is expanded. And, as in the musical, Nancy is murdered at London Bridge, not in her bedroom as in the novel.
On a moor, a pregnant woman staggers to a workhouse door in the rain and meets Mrs. Corney, who deems to take her in. The baby boy is born as his mother dies and leaves him a locket, which contains a portrait of her mother. Corney takes the locket and Mr. Bumble names the child Oliver from his rotating alphabetical list of names.
Six years pass and Oliver is now working in the workhouse’s dye works. He wants to see his locket. Corney reluctantly shows it to him. She says that he can have it if he’s a good boy when he’s 12. Now six more years pass and Oliver draws the short straw at dinner and must confront Mrs. Corney with more grub but instead, she kicks him out the workhouse and he returns to steal his locket at night (along with some real food for his journey) and heads out on the road directly after saying goodbye to a friend in the hallway.
After a brief trip on foot and carts, Oliver arrives in London. He gets hungry and tries to steal an apple, but is stopped by a young man named Jack Dawkins also known as the Artful Dodger.
The Dodger explains that he’s a professional pickpocket and thief and proud of his work. He takes Oliver to Fagin, a fence and old cutthroat Jew. Fagin takes Oliver's locket as Oliver is dressed and welcomed. Then, Oliver meets the murderous Bill Sikes and his harlot girlfriend, Nancy. After that, Oliver is put into Dodger’s care so he can sport his philosophy and show Oliver the art of the pickpocket—much as a game.
At night, Oliver catches Fagin admiring his little treasures, which he keeps hidden in a box. Fagin threatens Oliver if he tells anyone about the treasure box. Then, he gives Oliver a pick pocketing lesson. The next day, Oliver is sent out to pick his first pocket as Dodger orchestrates the plan. They are to steal the watch from a man who is buying a book. Oliver gets caught, after a brief chase and the Dodger is in hot water for having lost him. The victims of the pickpocket, Mr. Brownlow and his niece, Rose testify at Oliver’s arraignment that he was not the boy. They take Oliver to their high-end house on Governor's Square. At Oliver's new home, a connection has been made between a portrait at the Brownlows' and the tintype in the locket (which is now in Fagin’s treasure box). The Dodger manages to locate Oliver. Later, Bill Sikes, Nancy, and Dodger kidnap Oliver while he’s running an errand for the Brownlows.
Although the Artful Dodger is a rogue and thief, he is a good man gone wrong, with a heart of gold as shown when hesitates to bag Oliver. He defends him and eventually arcs into redemption. Nancy tries to get Oliver away, but incurs Bill Sikes’ suspicion and anger. Oliver is used in a robbery to gain entrance to the Brownlows’ mansion. However, Oliver manages to alert the household and only half the silver plate is taken.
Oliver tells Bill about Fagin’s treasure. Meanwhile, Dodger encourages Oliver to escape while Nancy goes to the Brownlows followed by Dodger (in Bill Sikes’ pay). She agrees to bring Oliver to London Bridge at Midnight. Dodger tells Sykes, and then, has second thoughts when he decides to take Oliver to the bridge himself. Unfortunately, Nancy is murdered near the Bridge by Sikes. Luckily, Sikes’ dog, Bulls-eye leads the police to Fagin’s place, where Bill has found Fagin’s treasure and is about to abscond. Fagin arrives and is held at gunpoint but Dodger manages to save him. Then, Bill takes Oliver as a hostage to the roof with Fagin’s treasure and makes his unexpected slip when falling his neck caught in a noose.
Dodger is caught by the police and Fagin negotiates with Oliver for the locket, but ultimately capitulates. The locket finally proves that Oliver is in fact Mr. Brownlow’s grandson. Oliver bids a fond farewell to the Dodger who is hauled off to jail as he promises to see him again someday after having gained a reputation as a famed thief in jail and outside the streets of London. Oliver is last seen sleeping happily in his new family home.
- Richard Dreyfuss .... Fagin
- Elijah Wood .... The Artful Dodger
- David O'Hara .... Bill Sikes
- Alex Trench ....Oliver Twist
- Antoine Byrne .... Nancy
- Olivia Caffrey .... Rose Maylie
- Anthony Finigan .... Mr. Brownlow
- Maria Charles .... Widow Corney
- Des Braiden .... Magistrate
- Eileen Colgan .... Mrs. Bedwin
- Eilish Moore .... Cook
- Lisa Dwan .... Agnes
- Conor Evans .... Chief Constable
- A.J. Kennedy .... Police Constable
- Jeffrey O'Toole .... Hugh
- Max Reynolds .... Oliver Twist (age 6)
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