Over ten years ago, Hallmark Entertainment, in partnership with TNT, produced a two-part, four-hour long adaptation of the Dickens’ classic David Copperfield. Full of talent, memorable characters and pretty costumes, this version is more about theatrics the nitty-gritty of the source material.
David Copperfield (2000) TNT TV Miniseries Review
The account and details of his birth is a story young David Copperfield hears more than once in the nine years he lives happily with his young, widowed mother (Sarah Smart). This is how David (Hugh Dancy) begins to write the autobiographical story of his life. He writes about the horrible period of his mother’s mistreatment at the hands of the cruel Edward Murdstone (Anthony Andrews) and his sister (Eileen Atkins). In the wake of her death, he escapes his own tragic circumstances at the hand of his step-father.
Eventually, David finds his aunt (Sally Field) and in later years, love with his employer’s daughter, Dora (Julie Cox). In-between the good times, he meets with ghosts from the past and finds himself part of a scheme orchestrated by the suspicious Uriah Heep (Frank McCusker). All while saving his childhood friend, Agnes Wickfield.
Anyone who is familiar with the story of David Copperfield knows a lot happens in-between the good, bad and ugly. He goes through more than one form of living hell and still, he turns out to be an upstanding, formidable man. The message is one that should be an inspiration to any of us that we can do any better.
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There’s multiple versions of this story, and no doubt, each of us have our favorite. This version reveals several things about the story while not being overwhelming or too detailed. As I compare this with the BBC adaptation, I’m surprised to realize both clock within ten minutes of each other. It always seems as if this U.S. production is so much shorter which is why the pacing seems to rush at times and slow in other instances.
Since this is my first exposure to Dickens in any form, this particular story will always be “special.” Intellectually, Bleak House has all of Dickens’ stories beat. Despite this, there’s always moral lessons to learn. This one focuses a great deal more on David’s childhood and the volatile temperament of Murdstone. (This means his relationship with Steerforth is less.) In addition to the fabulous cast, Paul Bettany and Michael Richards co-star. It’s Andrews who is quite brilliant; his smirk and evil lurking is creepy and positively wicked. Though let me warn you, if you never saw the 1980’s version of The Scarlet Pimpernel (which is brilliant), then you’ll want to forgo seeing this. Hugh Dancy is a relative newcomer at the time of filming but he manages the iconic role well; he plays a more naïve David until the final ten minutes of the film.
If there is only one thing I could constructively criticize it’s the timeframe. Far too much of the film focuses on David’s childhood but there is an adult David narrating which makes up for the lack of Hugh Dancy in front of the camera. The ending is all too abrupt also though it’s complete. Costuming is pretty if not totally period authentic and the settings are all lush landscapes and stylish estates. Perhaps not the most worthy adaptation, Robert Halmi impresses me with this version of a classic.
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It’s next to impossible to find David Copperfield (2000) anywhere just now; although you may see the rare British region 2 DVD on Amazon once in a while.
The films rates PG: there is s scene of a child being beaten with a cane [multiple blows]. Behind closed doors, another child is whipped much the same way. Elsewhere, there’s a lot of mistreatment of children in work houses and at schools; fellow students taunt and bully the newcomer.