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Oliver! Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 8+

Glorious musical based on Dickens' Oliver Twist.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Oliver! is a lavish 1968 adaptation of the Broadway musical based on the classic Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. It's warm and memorable -- and won six Oscars, including Best Picture -- but some of the scenes depicting street urchins and the poor of London in the mid-1800s might be troublesome for some families. Some of the younger characters are shown smoking pipes, and their "employer," the notorious Fagin, leader of their gang of pickpockets, has them drink gin. There are also scenes were poor people sing and carouse in a tavern. The film is over two-and-a half hours long, which could  be an issue for younger viewers. 

  • Families can talk about the power of Charles Dickens' storytelling. What is it about his stories from the 1800s that make them remain popular today, and so adaptable for plays, movies, and musicals?
  • How does music help tell the story in this film adaptation?
  • Oliver wants someone to "buy" his happy moment and save it for him. If you could pick a day to have saved that way, what day would you choose? 

The good stuff
  • educationalvalue true2

    Educational value: Oliver! provides a sense of what life was like for orphans in the mid-19th century in England and highlights the income disparities between economic classes. The film also exposes kids to the work of Charles Dickens. 

  • message true2

    Messages: In the right environment, a boy can be taught right from wrong. 

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: In spite of seeing Oliver with other street urchins seeming to try to pick his pockets, Mr. Brownlow takes Oliver Twist into his home to adopt him, believing that Oliver can change for the better in a more stable and richer environment. 

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence and scariness: Street urchins are pushed and kicked by corrupt adults, but no one appears injured. A woman is hit with a cane and left for dead by her husband. The blows are not shown, but the man is shown swinging the cane as her screams are heard. A man is shot and killed. A boy is kidnapped, tied up. and thrown into the back of a wagon.  

  • sex false0

    Sexy stuff: Not an issue

  • language false0

    Language: Not an issue

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Street urchins smoke pipes, and their evil overseer pours them cups of gin. In a pub, poor adults drink alcohol and sing pub songs.