Cinema: Great Expectations

Great Expectations (Universal). If any scenarist but Charles Dickens had brought the synopsis of this picture to a Hollywood producer, he would have been labeled a clown. An implausible rigmarole about old convicts, London swells, blacksmiths, eccentric old ladies, orphans with mysterious benefactors and gypsy servant girls, animated by coincidence and honeycombed with nonsense, its only similarity to a salable cinema narrative is a banal happy ending. Its main plot line, concerning the love of a young man, Pip, for an arrogant debutante, Estella, is confused by being intermittently subordinated to a mystery story.

The...